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Open Thread and Contest: 59

Regular Season Game 59
Knicks (28-34) at Wizards (34-26)
Verizon Center
7 PM

Previous Results:
Knicks 102, Wizards 82.
Wizards 113, Knicks 102.
Wizards 99, Knicks 98.

Somehow, the Knicks are very much in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.  Isiah Thomas the general manager has been awful, but Isiah the coach has been a lot better than his predecessor, Larry Brown.  I would hardly say that it's an accomplishment that a team with the league's highest payroll is close to the playoffs, but there's more hope for this Knicks team that there's been in a while.

The Knicks do two things very well.  First, they have a very good offense, ranking a solid 10th in offensive efficiency and fourth in free throws per field goal attempt.  Their free throws per field goal rating is actually higher than the Wizards, and we know the Wizards have a reputation for drawing a lot of fouls.  The other thing the Knicks do extremely well is rebound, particularly offensively.  In the first game, this is what killed the Wizards, and it nearly hurt them in the most recent game as well.  

Considering the offensive rebounding debacles of Atlanta and Golden State, the Knicks have the ability to keep this close with hustle on the glass.  The good news for the Wizards is that David Lee is probably going to be out, but with EJ's propensity for the small lineup, rebounding may once again be a concern.

Speaking of the small lineup, Clipperblog, while referring to their loss to the Warriors last night, had this to say about "smallball."  

"Going small" because your opponent plays at a fast pace is like batting Juan Pierre leadoff because he's a speedy little black guy.  They both reside in this bizarre realm of sports logic where ideas are employed because, well, "they seem right."  As if playing at a fast pace attenuates a need for rebounding.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Anyway, the far greater concern is that Caron Butler might be hurt again.  He sat out yesterday's practice with a sore knee, and is going to be a game-time decision tonight.  Apparently, he got kicked during the Hawks game.  From the Post:

Butler said he was kicked in his left knee during Wednesday's 100-97 loss at Atlanta and was still having flexibility problems after coming in for treatment on Thursday, the players' day off.

"It's just a bad bruise," said Butler, whose left knee was packed in ice as he met with reporters yesterday afternoon. "I got kicked or something and it just hasn't felt right. I have to wait for the swelling to go down. I'll see how it feels when I get up, but I'm looking forward to playing though."

I don't think I need to remind everyone that the Wizards are 0-8 in the last two years when Butler doesn't play.  If he can't go tonight, it's going to be very hard to beat a suddenly surging Knicks team.

By the way, this is yet another good time to go over to Posting and Toasting and say hello.  Seth's really hitting the ground running.

Your lines for tonight:

Knicks at Wizards: Wizards by 7.5.
Over/Under on Big 2/3: 49.5, 69.0.

[Note: You can change your pick anytime before the game starts if you think the result will be different without Caron.]

This is an open game thread, so angry comments when Michael Ruffin and Jarvis Hayes play key minutes in the fourth quarter go here.