Behold fellow backers of the New York Knicks (23-19), your tenacious team is in the nation’s capital for a Friday night fight with the Washington Wizards (18-24). Both squads barely won on Wednesday, with the ’Bockers fending off the Pacers and the ’Zards squeaking past the Bulls. Statistically speaking, both teams play their worst basketball in the fourth quarter. Brace yourself for the possibility of another frustrating final frame, folks.
Peter Botte of the New York Post reports that Washington’s All-Star Kristaps Porziņģis might miss tonight’s action due to sore ribs. He missed Wednesday’s game, too. Bummer. It’s always nice to watch the Knicks beat the big Latvian (their record against him is 4-1).
Led by sophomore head coach (and very likable chap) Wes Unseld, Jr, the D.C. crew has underperformed yet again this year. They sit 12th in the Eastern Conference and rank 22nd for offense, 13th for defense, and 18th for pace. They attempt only 31.2 threes per game and sink them at a 34% clip; for comparison, the Knicks heave 35.4 with the same percentage of success.
Could be a very messy basketball game at the Capital One Arena tonight. Tip-off’s at 7:00 p.m.
When New York was desperate for a competent starting point guard, some considered Monte Morris (6’2”, 183 lb.) to be a candidate. Instead, Denver traded the 27-year-old to Washington, where he has averaged 10.1 points, and 5.3 assists while shooting 47% from the field and 37% from deep. Not bad, but things worked out better for New York. Their new floor commander Jalen Brunson has averaged 33.2 points, 5.6 assists, and 5.2 rebounds in his last five games. If he is not voted into this year’s All-Star game, I will refuse to attend.
According to the latest injury report, zillion-dollar man Bradley Beal is on hiatus due to his hamstring. In tonight’s starting lineup, look for wings Corey Kispert (6’7”, 200 lb.) and Deni Avdija (6’9”, 210 lb.) to provide points in Brad’s absence. They’ll clash with the formidable double-whammy tandem of Quentin Grimes and RJ Barrett. Advantage: New York.
Kyle Kuzma (6’9”, 221 lb.) saved the W for the Wizards on Wednesday with a trey in the final seconds. Through half of a season, he’s averaging career-highs for points (21.3) and assists (3.8) per game, and field goal percentage (46%). He’s also playing his most minutes ever, logging 35 nightly. His three-point shooting has slid to 34%, though, and his defensive rating stands at 114.9, the worst of six campaigns.
K.K. will see mucho Julius Randle this evening. Randle’s bestial play is being rewarded with more All-Star consideration, so bravo to that.
Julius Randle has cracked the top 10 of Eastern Conference frontcourt players in the latest All-Star returns pic.twitter.com/XoNZtE5NS0— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) January 12, 2023
In nine games against the Kooz, Julius has averaged 24.1 points and 8.8 rebounds. He’ll top those stats tonight.
Washinton’s center Daniel Gafford is day-to-day with an ankle issue. The big man has averaged 7.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in just under 17 minutes per game. Possibly starting in his absence will be fan-favorite, Taj Gibson, who put in 25 minutes on Wednesday. I’m a shameless Knicks homer, but to see Taj swish a corner bucket for old-time’s sake would be sweet. He and Mitchell Robinson should have some fun in the paint tonight.
This will be the first of four meetings between the clubs, with the next coming on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. With both teams prone to lousing up their fourth quarter, things will likely get hairy down the stretch yet again. Expect New York to close the final minutes strong, however, and depart D.C. with a six-point victory.
Capital One Arena. Friday. 7:00 p.m. ET. Friday night Knicks! All hail Doug for this alternative: