Tonight, the New York Knicks (0-1) open Madison Square Garden to host the Detroit Pistons (1-0) in their first home game of the 2022-23 campaign.
The Knicks lost by inches in overtime to the Grizzlies on Wednesday. Elsewhere in Michigan, the Pistons held off Paolo Banchero and the spunky Magic, 113-109.
New York thumped Detroit in their preseason match-up, but the Pistons were a tighter squad versus Orlando. Maybe that was due to the competition. The Magic, despite a tantalizing Wagner-Banchero combo, is projected to finish low in the East. Predictions are similar for Detroit. If New York plays to their talent, they should even their record and celebrate their first NYC win of the season. (Hold your bings and bongs, please.) If they lose . . . Panic in the streets! Fire the coach! Trade RJ!
Nah, they’ll win. Tip-off’s at 7:30 p.m., CamStans.
Elmore Leonard might be my favorite writer from Detroit. Jalen Brunson’s game reminds me of Dutch’s prose: lean, direct, short on frills, long on efficiency. Cade Cunningham (6’6”, 220 lb.) seems to have a similarly austere disposition. His 113.1 defensive rating compares closely to Jalen’s 111.8, but the 21-year-old needs to improve upon last year’s percentages from the field (42%) and deep (31%) if he wants to match Jalen’s effectiveness on offense. Against the Magic, Cade shot 6-for-16 (38%) and collected 18 points. He’ll probably post similar stats tonight.
Cade has five inches of height over Brunson, so if we’re re-casting Get Shorty tonight: Jalen is DeVito.
Who knew that Evan Fournier would have to compete with both Quentin Grimes AND Cam Reddish for minutes? On Wednesday, Reddish played his best game as a Knick and inspired many to check prices for his jersey online.
Tap the brakes. Cam is capable of impressive flourishes. With an opponent like Detroit, and Grimes injured, Reddish will have the chance to light up the Teletron again. I suggest you wait to see if Cam will be consistent over 10 to 20 games before you buy that jersey.
The fifth pick in this year’s draft, Jaden Ivey (6’4”, 195 lb.) is an explosive, athletic guard. He sank two threes in his first official game but worked mostly at the rim, finishing 8-for-15 for 19 points. He’ll be a tough defensive assignment. Maybe those go-go Reddish arms will come in handy?
In the preseason victory over Detroit, RJ Barrett led the charge with 21 points in 23 minutes. That’s far better than his 3-for-18 performance in the Grizzly loss. RJ will surely redeem himself tonight against Saddiq Bey, (6’7”, 215 lb.). An intriguing player, Bey only managed six points in 23 minutes in that preseason outing and eight against the Magic.
Julius Randle posted a fine stat line of 20.1/9.9/5.1 last season. Yet, as the once Poet Laureate Robert Hayden wrote, no one thanked him. Too negative, too selfish, that’s what many of us said.
Perhaps the criticism affected Julius. Against the Grizz, he played solid, collaborative basketball that, lo and behold, resulted in 24 points, 11 boards, six dimes, and two steals. Having a capable point guard helps. So does a positive attitude. I expect more of this Julius—Julius 3.0? 4.0?—tonight against Bojan Bogdanovic (6’7”, 226 lb.). Beware, though: Bojan can still ball, y’all. He collected 24 points and five boards on Wednesday.
Robert Hayden came from Detroit. Cannot confirm if he backed the Pistons.
Tonight is the sort of match-up that should benefit Mitchell Robinson. My favorite Martian often dominates against second-tier centers but struggles against guys like Steven Adams. Facing the Big Kiwi, Mitch finished with four points, two rebounds, and five fouls in under 13 minutes. Isaiah Hartenstein filled in admirably, posting 16 points, eight rebounds, and four assists in 40 (yes, 40) minutes. Isaiah may still be taking an IV drip to recover.
Tonight, Mitchell should win his minutes against Isaiah Stewart (6’8”, 250 lb.). However, the Knicks will need all hands on deck to deal with rookie backup Jalen Duren (6’10”, 250 lb.). Coach Dwayne Casey split time equitably between Stewart (26 min) and Duren (21 min) on Wednesday. A rebounding machine, Duren grabbed 14 boards in 24 minutes against the Knicks in the preseason and scored a double-double (14 points, 10 boards) versus Orlando. I hope Hartenstein’s feeling refreshed by game time. I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit of Jericho Sims, too.
New York dispatched Detroit with relative ease in the preseason. Don’t be surprised if the Pistons have more fight in them tonight. Nevertheless, the Knicks are the deeper team and should win most of their match-ups. Prediction: Knicks by eight in their first home game of the season.
Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NY. Friday. 7:30 p.m. Welcome home, Knicks!