We’ve seen a bit of everything from the undefeated Knicks this preseason. A few players have stood out after a full summer of working on their craft while others have been disappointing or have reverted to bad habits. It’s pointless to get too excited or pessimistic, as a two game sample size is hardly something to read too much into. But with the regular season creeping up on us, these preseason games will start to mean a bit more and will start to tell us a bit more. Whether it’s where players are at rhythm wise and conditioning wise, or what Thibodeau reveals in terms of rotations, it gives all of us a reason to tune in.
Jalen Brunson got off to an amazing start in his first preseason game with an efficient and seemingly easy 16 points and five assists on 7-9 from the field, but struggled a bit more against the Pacers last Friday. He’ll look to bounce back tonight as he’ll once again matchup against the young standout, Tyrese Haliburton (6’5”, 185 lb.), who used his size and length to hold him to a 4-12 shooting night while going off for 20 points and seven assists in just 24 minutes of action.
With Cam Reddish doing very little to warrant another look at the starting lineup, and Quentin Grimes continuing to nurse a minor foot injury, Evan Fournier, who missed Friday’s night cap against the Pacers, should return to the starting lineup. While coach Tom Thibodeau seems pretty set on Fournier being the starting shooting guard for the time being, he’ll surely want to get back on track after scoring just five points in 18 minutes in the preseason opener. Hell be matched with second year guard, Chris Duarte (6’6”, 190 lb.) who, like Fournier, will look to improve on what has so far been a quiet preseason.
RJ Barrett, who is currently leading the team in scoring (19.5PPG) and minutes (25MPG), will start at the small forward position once again. Barrett will look to stay aggressive while continuing to improve on his efficiency as he matches up against veteran sharp shooter Buddy Hield (6’4”, 220 lb.) who averaged 15.6PPG and 4.4RPG last season between his time in Sacramento and Indiana.
Julius Randle, who not only managed to 1-7 from three, but also had the worst plus/minus in the starting lineup on Friday, will look to get back on track. Randle looked solid as a secondary playmaker against the Pistons last week and went 2-3 from deep in that one so hopefully we’ll see that version of Randle once again. He should once again be matched up against the third year big man Jalen Smith (6’10”, 215 lb.), who despite being smaller than Randle, was able to force him to lean on his jump shot. Smith, who averaged 9.2 PPG and 6 RPG, is one of the young pieces the Pacers are looking to build around. Expect him to get a solid amount of minutes in this one.
Mitchell Robinson has yet to eclipse the 20 minute mark will man the middle once again. Surely the coaching staff wants to keep him fresh and healthy for the upcoming season, but look for his minutes to start ramping up as conditioning has also always been a concern with Robinson. Coming off of a 10-point, nine-rebound performance, which included four offensive rebounds, he’ll matchup against perennial trade candidate, Myles Turner (6’11”, 250 lb.) who averaged 12.9 PPG and 7.1 RPG last season. The seven-year vet had a three-point dud in 17 minutes on Friday so look for him to be more assertive in aggressive in this one.
As a team projected to struggle in the Eastern Conference this season, the Knicks will look to get off to a hot start and lean on their depth, cohesiveness, and conditioning early on. To do so, we can expect Thibodeau and the Knicks to start ramping up the minutes and intensity heading in to the last two games of the preseason. The Pacers, a team that is actively looking to get rid of the aforementioned Turner and Hield, may (unlike the Knicks) want to use the rest of the preseason to get a look at some of their younger guys and continue to use the extended bench much like they did last Friday.
While the Knicks will still be missing Grimes, the Knicks should continue their preseason winning streak on the backs of Barrett, Brunson, Randle (fingers crossed) and the deep bench that they have. While this game may be a bit closer due to it being in Indiana this time, expect the Knicks to improve to 3-0.
Wednesday’s game is at 7:00 PM EST on MSG. Oh and go check out the recently unveiled statement jerseys!