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Preview of the Knicks’ upcoming week, Jan. 28 - Feb 3

A road-then-home back-to-back, then two more at MSG.

New York Knicks v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

The Knickerbockers (29-17) skip down to North Carolina for one tilt, then back to MSG to compete the next night, and finish the week with two more at home. Lacking their star power forward, the Knicks will face some tough competition this week. Let’s get into it.

Knicks at Hornets, 7:00 PM, Monday, January 29

The schedule may have done New York an inadvertent favor. With Julius Randle sidelined by a dislocated shoulder, Tom Thibodeau will need to see who fits best at power forward and which lineups are most effective. What better team to try against than that sack of straw in Charlotte?

The Hornets (10-34) recently traded away their second-most points scorer, Terry Rozier. They still have LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges, and Brandon Miller, but Ball plays about as often as an eczema flare-up and rookie Miller is still finding his way. The rook was terrific in a recent win over Minnesota, but then disappeared again in the three subsequent games. He could prove a challenge for a smaller Knicks frontcourt, however. His numbers this season: 14.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 38 games, 43% from the field, 37% from deep.

Bridges is having career bests for points and rebounds (20.8 and 7.2) and is shooting 36% from deep on a greater volume (6.5 3PA). He possesses a big body, and the Knicks will most likely need alternate Precious Achiuwa and OG Anunoby to defend him on Monday. Unless, of course, the Suns trade for him before gametime.

The Knicks have beaten Charlotte thrice this season, by a total of 60 points. Let’s make it a season sweep!

Knicks vs Jazz, 7:30 PM, Tuesday, January 30

The Utah Jazz (24-23) went 7-17 to start the season, but then won 17 of their next 23 games. Sophomore coach Will Hardy seems to be figuring out what to do with his oddball assortment of players. In their last 15 games, they’ve ranked first in the league for points per game (127), sixth for field goal percentage (50.1%), and third for rebounds (behind Boston and New York). Over that same span, they’ve ranked second for assists (31 per game) and fourth for blocks.

Lauri Markkanen remains a key contributor, leading the team with points (24 PPG) and rebounds (8.8 RPG). As for playmaking, the Jazz have six players averaging four or more assists per game, with rumors-favorite Jordan Clarkson leading with the way (five APG). Clarkson is also the team’s second-highest scorer with 18 PPG in about 30 minutes per night. As for the team’s impressive blocks number, credit Walker Kessler with 2.7 per contest.

When the two teams played on December 13, New York came up short against Utah, 117 to 113. Normally, I’d confidently pick the Knicks to win on Tuesday. But Utah has been playing much better ball, going 11-4 over their last 15 games. They play fast, score a lot of points, and rebound well. They, like the Knicks, will be playing the second of a back-to-back, but they’ll be traveling from Brooklyn, whereas the Bockers will be flying back from Charlotte. And without Julius Randle, New York will need to someone(s) else to make up for the lack of his 9.2 boards and 24 points.

Could be a very close game for our heroes.

Knicks vs Pacers, 7:30 PM, Thursday, February 1

The Indiana Pacers (26-20) beat the Knicks 140-126 on December 30th. Tyrese Haliburton tied a franchise record with 23 assists in the game. You’ve heard he’s going to the All-Star game?

Newest Hoosier Pascal Siakam seems rejuvenated by the great Midwest. He has averaged 21.8 points, eight rebounds, and 5.6 assists in five games for the Pacers and promptly became their top-rebounder and second-highest scorer behind Haliburton. Fellow former Raptor OG Anunoby knows Pascal’s game well, and I’d wager that Thibs will seek to exploit his insider intelligence on Thursday.

The Pacers are still the league’s best-shooting team from the field and the fifth-best from deep. They’re the second-speediest, too. Their defense has improved a bit of late (statistically, at least); after rating among the league’s worst for the first leg of the season, they held the 19th defensive rating over the last ten. However, they went 5-5 over that span, so draw your own conclusions. Expect lots of points scored on Thursday.

Knicks vs Lakers, 8:30 PM, Saturday, February 3

This game promises to be New York’s toughest test of the week. Without Randle, the depleted Knicks will battle one of the league’s most formidable frontcourts, featuring LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Los Angeles Lakers have won six of their last ten games while ranking second for field goal percentage and third for three-point percentage (41.4%) over the duration. Although their defense was inconsistent though those ten games, they mostly performed to their talent level, aside from a weird loss to Brooklyn.

The Knicks beat the Lakers in Cali back in December, 114-109. This will be their second and final meeting of the season. In the last match, New York needed a 27/14 double-double from Julius and 29 points from Jalen Brunson to beat the Silverscreeners. Tough game incoming. The Knicks will need solid performances from the entire squad to win it.

Splitting the week 2-2 would be a very acceptable outcome. Go Knicks!