Game Preview 11: Knicks (6-4) at Memphis Grizzlies (3-6)

Not so fierce

After an ugly but encouraging win against the upstart 76ers, the Knicks travel to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies at the FedEx Forum tonight. The Knicks are catching the Grizzlies at a good time. Despite emerging as a playoff darling last spring, they have struggled to recapture that magic in the early going and have since lost leading scorer Zach Randolph for two months (I thought he was going to be a steal for 12 dollars in my fantasy auction, but alas, not so). The Knicks are thus well-positioned to take this one, and in doing so, extend their winning streak to five games. I have to admit, the last clause of that last sentence felt very strange to write.

But before Knicks fans get too confident, a closer look at their respective schedules show how misleading their records can be to date. Memphis’ strength of schedule is sixth overall, with recent losses coming at the hands of the Lakers, the Thunder twice, the Bulls (in embarrassing fashion on New Years Day), and a youthful, better-than-expected Utah squad. The Grizzlies have won every game they should have. Meanwhile, the Knicks continue to benefit from the league’s weakest schedule. On the second night of a back to back I hope we don’t get caught tired, or looking ahead to a tough match-up in OKC this Saturday. These are the kind of games the Knicks need to prove that they can win.

Key match-up: Has to be Melo-Gay on the wing. I agree with everything AC said about Melo and hope he plays within the offense a bit more. Gay’s athleticism should be a challenge, hope he can be contained.


Preview Game 10: Knicks (5-4) v. Philadelphia 76ers (7-2)

The Knicks are at home tonight against the No. 1 ranked, 76ers by ESPN’s John Hollinger.  Though that ranking has caused some to snicker because of a perceived-easy schedule, it should be noted that the Sixers have won 5 of their first 9 games by 20 points or more.  So they are doing what they are supposed to.  Doug Collins seems to have very good control over the players, they play hard and listen, they defend, and they are deep.  So the Knicks will have their hands full.   

"The Knicks displaying Matador D, folks."

The Sixers’ biggest weakness is in the frontcourt where they lack depth.  If the Knicks can get Amar’e or Chandler the ball going toward the basket early, things will open up.  Foul trouble for Hawes or Brand, who historically kills the Knicks, would be a good thing. 
Tonight also marks the return of former/disgraced Knick Malik Rose to the Garden – now as a Sixers broadcaster.  I have watched a few Sixers games this year, and must say that Rose makes Eric Snow look like Howard Cosell.  It makes you appreciate Clyde more and more.  And speaking of Clyde, rumor has it that he could be Twitter’s newest sensation.     Frankly, it doesn’t mean much to me unless I can hear him speak his tweets.  And by the way I think I just invented a new twitter feature. 
Match-up to watch tonight:  Iguodala on Carmelo.  Iguodala is lauded by many as one of the league’s best defenders.  And that reputation is well-deserved.  You would think Carmelo’s strength would pose problems for Iguodala.   However, Carmelo has put up pedestrian numbers (for him) against PHI over the last three seasons (’10: 21.5ppg, 42%FG; ’09: 14.0 ppg; 24%FG; ’08: 24.0 ppg; 42%)
Tonight’s game will be won at the end/beginning of quarters two and three while volume shooters, Carmelo and Amar’e rest up.  Can the Knicks’ second team stay with the Sixers second team?  Let’s hope so, and let’s hope Knicks fans lay off TD tonight;  we’ll need him.
UPDATE:  Spencer Hawes will sit out tonight’s game with back spasms.  Enter Tony Battie. Yes, that Tony Battie.  From 100 years ago. 

Preview Game 9: Knicks (4-4) vs. Charlotte Bobcats (2-6)

The Knicks get a second go at the Bobcats tonight in Charlotte, a chance to avenge their distressing loss last week at home. The Knicks need to prove their mettle tonight by showing they are able to beat bad teams at homeon the road  and can string together more than a couple victories in a row without suffering an unnecessary letdown. Whereas the Knicks have won two straight since their match-up last week, including their strongest game of the season at Detroit Saturday night, the Bobcats have returned to their losing ways – losing in Atlanta and at home against the Pacers.

The Knicks have a few players nursing injuries. Melo in particular has been hobbled ever since the game in DC on Friday might. When asked Saturday night to explain what’s going, he struggled to pinpoint any one issue — “My whole right side was kind of locked up. Last night when we got in, they unlocked my back, then today it was my hip, then in the game it was my knee. It was kind of my whole right side. I can use this day off (Sunday).”  I am terrified as to what this will mean for his shot selection. Hopefully Toney feels good enough to go after a vicious pick Saturday night.

Big Questions going into Game 9:

Are the Knicks mentally strong enough to win the games they should? I hope so.

And will Mike Bibby ever miss another 3-pointer?

Preview Game 8: Knicks (3-4) at Detroit Pistons (2-5)

The Knicks head to Auburn Hills to take on the Pistons tonight at the Palace. Tonight’s game will be their second in as many nights against an offensively troubled team – the Pistons’ offense has been as pitiful as the Wizards, averaging only 84.9 points per game. The Knicks need to take advantage of these early matchups and work out some of the kinks on the defensive end. Hopefully Detroit obliges.

Melo looks prepared to play after sitting out the final possession of the Wizards game with a sore hip. He is coming off three straight games with 30 or more points but was hobbled towards the end of the game. After the game he said, “I was hurt. I was just praying it went in. I wasn’t going to try to drive at all, I knew I didn’t have any push off on my right leg.” Why did he have the ball then??

As for Detroit, it is unclear if guards Ben Gordon and Rodney Stuckey will be in the lineup. Gordon sat out Friday due to personal reasons, while Stuckey was absent with a sore groin. If so, look to up and coming center Greg Monroe to carry some of the offensive weight – he put up 22 points against the Sixers last night. This will also be our first look at Jorts’ old teammate Brandon Knight.

Big Questions going into tonight: Does Shump move into the starting line up? And how well can Toney recover from his being benched most of the second half in Washington?

Preview Game 6: Knicks (2-4) at Washington Wizards (0-6)

Lets try this again. The Knicks visit the telephone booth tonight in our nation’s capital with hopes of rebounding from their humbling loss Wednesday night against the Bobcats. Fortunately, the Washington basketball franchise has cornered the market on analyst predictions for worst team in the NBA, starting out the season 0-6. The team features superstar in the making John Wall and a supporting cast of Knucklehead gunners who would make even the Sacramento Kings locker room blush. Maybe Javale will swat a few shots into the 9th row, but otherwise their seems to be little threat. Tonight is a game the Knicks have to win.

There is some speculation that Shump will leapfrog into the starting lineup. Also very curious to see how Amar’e responds to the Dwight Howard rumors which surfaced earlier today.

Preview Game Six: Knicks (2-3) v. Charlotte Bobcats (1-4)

The Knicks face-off against the hapless Charlotte Bobcats tonight at the Garden. Their injury plagued squad is coming off an ugly loss on their home court Monday night against the Raptors in which they mustered only 11 points in the second quarter, and spent much of the second half scraping their way back into the game only to fall short in the final minute. On a positive note, injured Power Forward Amar’e Stoudemire appears set to return to the lineup after being sidelined the last two games with a sprained ankle. Knicks fan will be anxious to see what his return might bring to the team’s sputtering offense, although if his early season performance is any indication there is reason to believe it won’t be a seamless addition. Self proclaimed rookie guard Iman “Shump Shump” Shumpert also appears to ready to return from injury, way ahead of schedule. His athleticism/spark off the bench should be an asset to the team though his liberal shot selection will likely induce as many headaches.
Meanwhile, the Bobcats are in their own tailspin, having lost four in a row. They showed admirable fight in an early season loss to the presumptive Eastern Conference favorite, the Miami Heat but have since rolled over in embarrassing fashion losing by an average of 15 points per game. The Bobcats have the highest points allowed average in the NBA through five games and appear ill equipped to stop their opponents from scoring. Even the Cavaliers put up 115 against them last night. The Bobcats have a thin front line led by Boris Diaw at the center spot, giving the Knicks front line a lot of room to maneuver down low. Ty Thomas remains listed as day to day.

Preview Game Five: Knicks (2-2) at Toronto Raptors (1-3)

The Knicks return to the garden tonight to face the Toronto Raptors (1-3) after finishing their West Coast trip with an impressive win at Sacramento. As of early afternoon Monday Amar’e Stoudemire remained a game time decision but he did not participate in the morning shoot around and reports seem to indicate he is unlikely to suit up. The Raptors have lost three in a row (at Orlando, at Dallas, and home to Indiana ) by an average of 8 points. The Knicks swept the season series last year against Toronto, averaging 114.5 points per game. The Knicks should have little trouble scoring early and often tonight against Toronto’s porous defense if they continue to move the ball like they did against the Kings.

Key Matchup: Ball Movement v. Isolations. If the Knicks remain active, avoid their lazy ways, it should be a pretty easy victory.