W2W4: New York Knicks vs. San Antonio Spurs; January 2nd, 2014

Posted by Kenneth Teape on Thursday, January 02, 2014 with No comments
By Kenneth Teape (@teapester725)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New York Knicks vs. San Antonio Spurs

Pre-Game News and Notes

The Knicks will embark on the dreaded Texas Triangle road trip starting Thursday in San Antonio. For a team struggling as much as the Knicks a road trip of this difficulty could spell disaster. It will be a tall task for the Knicks to pull the victory out tonight, but here are a few things to keep an eye on for the game tonight that will point them in the right direction.

-Player News and Notes

Mark Bonifacio/New York Daily News
The Knicks will get a big boost Thursday as Carmelo Anthony is expected to be back in the lineup. The Knicks have looked like a complete mess offensively over the last three games with Anthony sidelined. The Knicks have obviously struggled throughout the season even with Anthony in the lineup, evident by their 9-21 record, but having Anthony helps them out.

Some other injury news for the Knicks is that Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni will continue to be sidelined. Neither player made the trip to San Antonio nor both are expected to be out the whole road trip. Metta World Peace is dealing with a knee injury and his timetable to return is unknown at this time. 
The Spurs on the other hand look to be heading into the game with a full complement of players. With them playing their last game New Year’s Eve there should be no shenanigans pulled by Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who has notoriously gave players rest when he feels necessary.

-Lineup Changes

With Anthony returning to the lineup, Woodson has some decisions to make with the starting lineup. He did not wait until game time to share his thoughts today, as the starting lineup was already announced. Anthony will be joined by Beno Udrih, Iman Shumpert, Andrea Bargnani and Tyson Chandler; yes Woodson is stubbornly going with his ‘big lineup’ once again.

This could put the Knicks out of the game early as the trio of Anthony, Bargnani and Chandler has not seen positive results yet this season. It has been only 85 minutes, but in those 85 minutes they have been outscored by an average of 7.9 points per 48 minutes and an unsightly defensive rating of 116.6 points allowed per 100 possessions. The Spurs are one of the most efficient offenses in the NBA, as the Knicks witnessed this season already with a 120-89 beat down November 10th at Madison Square Garden.

-Will Defense Step Up?

Maddie Meyers/Getty Images
As mentioned in the last section the defense with that trio is not good, but the defense overall no matter who is on the court has been underwhelming for the Knicks all season. On the season they are a respectable 11th in the NBA allowing 99.2 points per game. Over the last eight game things have gotten hard to watch, as the Knicks have surrendered 104.4 points per game. The perimeter defense has struggled all season and hit a low point recently as the Knicks have allowed 38 three-point makes over the last three games.

The perimeter defense is something the Knicks need to focus on tonight or the game will be over before halftime. The Spurs have one of the best point guards in the NBA in Tony Parker. With Felton and Prigioni sidelined Udrih and rookie Toure’ Murry will be running the point most of the night. Udrih is a revolving door defensively but Murry is an athletic, lanky guard who came into the league with a reputation to play good defense. In the Knicks last game Murry played the whole fourth quarter with Udrih planted on the bench; it would not be surprising to see the same happen tonight as the Knicks will pull out all the stops to slow down Parker.

The Knicks will have to concentrate on rotations to limit the Spurs three point opportunities as well. Long Island native Danny Green made a name for himself in the NBA Finals last season with his sharpshooting and has continued the hot shooting at a 42.4 percent clip this season thus far. The Spurs have four other players shooting over 40 percent from long range in Marco Belinelli at 48.1 percent, Parker at 46.9, Matt Bonner at 43.6 and Patty Mills and 40.2, making them the best three-point shooting team in the NBA. They rank only tied for 16th in three-point attempts per game, but if you let them shoot it they will knock it down with consistency.
Debby Wang/USA TODAY Sports

-Matchup of the Game: Carmelo Anthony vs. Kawhi Leonard

Anthony is returning to the lineup tonight for the Knicks and will have a difficult matchup right off the bat with up-and-coming wing Leonard. Leonard is an above average defender and will give Anthony fits but Anthony is one of, if not the top scorer in the NBA. Watching these two go at it throughout the evening will be worth watching.

Leonard will give Anthony some problems on the defensive end too. Leonard is active on the offensive end, cutting and capable of attacking the basket. He is also able to knock down perimeter jump shots as his offensive game has really grown since he entered the NBA. The activity he has on the offensive end will be more of a problem for the team as a whole than Anthony singularly. With the Knicks penchant to switch on the defensive end, mismatches are made on almost every possession with players always being out of position. If the Knicks can minimize the mismatches such as Tyson Chandler being stuck on the perimeter and guards playing against post players it will heighten their chances to win.