Last night sucked. Time to turn things around.
Where and when? Tip off is at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center.
Are they good? No, they're really struggling. Like, 2008, trying to make it work with Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph in the same frontcourt struggling (this is the year they won 23 games with an aging and/or overweight roster that cost like $90+ million and forced the team's owner to finally dump Isaiah Thomas, hire Mike D'Antoni and Donnie Walsh, and tank for two years in order to attempt to sign Lebron). Things should get better once Tyson Chandler comes back, but in contrast to popular sentiment, I don't see how even at full strength they'll be more than a 40 win team, especially with Amare Stoudemire liable to fall apart at any moment. Realistically, New York is probably going to win 30-35 games this year, not make the playoffs and not learn from their mistakes since James Dolan is a bad owner.
Who's out? As mentioned, Stoudemire is limited and Chandler is out for New York, plus Raymond Felton is questionable for tonight due to a pinched nerve in his hip. Washington's missing the usual bunch: Trevor Ariza, Chris Singleton, Otto Porter and Al Harrington, ie everyone on the team who might be worth putting on Carmelo Anthony.
What are they good at? Shooting three pointers thanks to all of the double teams Carmelo draws. Even though things haven't quite clicked like they did during the first half of last year, the Knicks have a ton of guys who can make three pointers. Pablo Prigioni, Andrea Bargnani, J.R. Smith, Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih are all great shooters, plus even Anthony has become a very accurate three point shooter over the last few years, having made 37% of his triples during his time in a Knicks uniform.
What are they bad at? Protecting the paint any time Chandler isn't on the floor. While Bargnani is an ok defender in one on one situations, he's an abysmal help defender. This is bad for the Knicks since Il Mago is the only rotation player over 6'9 and the perimeter players, particular Smith and Anthony, can be very inattentive defenders. As a result, New York has the league's fourth worst defense on a per possession basis right now.
Despite the presence of a free throw magnet like Anthony, New York is also the second worst team in the league in terms of free throw attempts per field goal attempt. Some of this is a result of all of the three pointers - New York takes on a per-possession basis than all but two other teams - but it speaks volumes about how much the offense can struggle without Anthony around to earn the team easy points from the charity stripe.
Who's going to win? Despite having just spent about 500 words complaining about how poorly they're constructed (the Knicks were my second favorite team growing up after the Wizards), I think New York could give the Wizards trouble. Without anyone around who can comfortably check Anthony in one-on-one situations, Washington's going to have to constantly scramble to help whoever is guarding him, which should lead to a lot of open three pointers for players like Bargnani and Prigioni. One of the reasons the team's two point guard lineups work so well is that they lead to lineups in which at least two of the players on the perimeter are thinking pass-first, so the team winds up doing an excellent job of moving the ball around the perimeter and passing up lightly contested threes for wide open ones. If Washington's going to get the win they're going to need to ensure that they don't overhelp or gamble on defense. Anthony might score 40, but as long as we're not seeing multiple Knicks make more than half of their three point attempts, Washington should come out on top.