After reeling off nine consecutive wins, the New York Knicks (39-29) have dropped two games, including their first of their west coast road trip, a 122-117 loss in Sacramento. The tests keep coming, with a game this afternoon against the L.A. Clippers (35-33).
Now featuring increased amounts of Kawhi Leonard, the Clips outlasted the Raptors on Wednesday, 108-100. Both L.A. and New York sit fifth in their respective conferences and are jockeying for playoff positions.
The Clippers are 17-15 at their Crypto crypt. Their offense is 19th-best in the league, while their defense is 14th. They surrender an average of 112.8 points per game and trot along at the NBA’s 24th pace. The Knicks are road warriors, with a record of 20-13, but as we saw on Thursday, Jalen Brunson is essential to their success, so his sore foot will likely hobble the team. *Ahem*
This marks the second meeting between the two teams this season, and L.A. claimed a 134-128 overtime victory on February 5. In that game, Leonard tallied 35 points, while Brunson posted 41 for the Knicks.
It’s a Saturday matinee, ya manatees. Tip-off’s at 4 p.m. EST.
With Jalen Brunson sidelined by the scariest sore foot in basketball, Immanuel Quickley will take the lead guard reins against wiley vet, Russell Westbrook. The pugnacious Russ has averaged 15.7 points, 7.6 assists, and 5.9 rebounds in 59 games this season.
Paul George scored 30 points, eight rebounds, and five assists when the Clips last played the Knicks. PG will square off with Quentin Grimes, who logged 13 points and five boards over 39 minutes in the same game. George averages 23.7 points per game and restricting him to that number would be a success.
RJ Barrett has averaged 18.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in three games versus Kawhi Leonard. For the 2022-23 season, The Klaw has averaged 23.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 3.9 assists in 40 contests.
Julius Randle has looked exhausted since the Knicks’ recent wins over Miami and Boston. Late in Tuesday’s game against Charlotte, I noticed that his face was dry, which was unusual for a guy whose perspiration level is normally pleasantly moist. Seemed gassed. Against Sacramento, he gave a better effort but was stuck in the mud. The Lakers drafted Julius and he has a fondness for the town, so let’s hope that this homecoming of sorts helps him rediscover his mojo. Today he’ll lock horns with OAKAAKUYOAK Marcus Morris.
In the Association, Ivica Zubac rates third for offensive rebounds (204), sixth for total rebounds (624), and ninth for blocks (83). He has a respectable defensive rating of 111.8 this season. Not to be outdone, Mitchell Robinson’s defensive rating is 109.5. The matchup between these two board gobblers will be a fun side story today.
With Brunson out, this game triggers all the anxiety that the Boston contest did last Sunday, but that ended in delirious glory thanks to Quickley taking on the role of Mr. Wonderful. For my phone’s wallpaper, I replaced my kid’s picture with one of Quickley jumping like Super Mario while the Boston fans stare in horror behind him. It’s glorious. (Yeah, I’ll restore Rowan’s picture eventually.) Being an unabashed homer and still buzzing from the residual vibes of that nine-game streak, every fiber in me refuses to predict a loss. Hence, for the first time in NBA history, today will end in a tie. Or . . . sigh. Knicks by -10.
Crypto.com Arena. LA, CA. Saturday, 4:00 p.m. EST. Whup ’em, Knicks!