The Knicks christen MSG with a Saturday night matchup against the Pistons.
It will feel like a surreal moment but also a breath of fresh air in the Garden as the Knicks take the Garden floor for the first time officially without Carmelo Anthony. After their loss in Oklahoma City on Thursday night, coming back to New York will be a nice change of pace. Last year in the home opener, KP scored a team-high 21 points in 36 minutes — the first glimpse at his capability of taking over the Knicks’ offensive load. Tonight, the Knicks kick off their 71st season at the Garden with the team fully centered on KP getting buckets and being the confident captain of this ship.
The Knicks play host to the Detroit Pistons, who are coming off a Friday night loss in DC. The Pistons continue to be a middling, underachieving franchise in the Eastern Conference. They’re hoping to get over the hump after recently acquiring defensive ace Avery Bradley and drafting the sharp-shooting guard Luke Kennard in June at pick number 12. Kennard has shown promise off the bench as a catch-and-shoot weapon, the skill where he flourished the most back at Duke.
Unfortunately, the Knicks will again be without their draft pick, Frank Ntilikina, who tweaked his ankle Friday night in practice. Per Coach Hornacek, he will sit out tonight. It doesn’t appear to be an injury that will keep Frank sidelined for too long. Be patient, Knicks fans.
The Pistons were a horrible three-point shooting team last year. They’ve addressed that weakness with Kennard, Bradley, and signing #OAKAAK Langston Galloway. A major key in the guards matchup will be limiting the looks Kennard gets and making him put the ball on the floor. I watched a little of the Pistons/Wizards game on Friday night and saw that Kennard is a huge cog in Detroit’s second unit. Hornacek will have to deploy Sessions and, to a certain extent, backup Ron Baker to prevent those shooting runs that Kennard is capable of.
Drummond is the first of multiple physical big men that KP will have in his face. Drummond has been a center whose career is odd to judge. You look at him and expect him to be dominant. To some, he is a force to be reckoned with. But on the other hand, he’s not a center you’re clamoring to build a franchise around. He’s a premier rebounder. However, that’s really the only skill he performs at a consistently high level.
Meanwhile, KP is a swiss-army knife of talent. In effect, he’s the polar opposite of Drummond. He does everything well offensively and runs the floor with the grace of a gazelle. But defensively, particularly on the boards, he has room to grow. This is an exciting match-up to keep an eye on, mainly because KP will now be moving between the 4 and 5 spot. That means for periods of time, they may be guarding each other one-on-one or they be may be helping on double teams. I’m interested in seeing how KP is able to help on the inside with Drummond, considering Enes Kanter is a not-so-good defender at the rim.
Andre Drummond versus Kristaps Porzingis
Another note regarding tonight’s opening roster is that the Knicks are short-handed on the wing due to Michael Beasley’s injury. That’s enough for Hornacek to justify going deeper into his bench earlier than later. We’ve seen him get Lance Thomas in the front rotation. This week though, we pontificated about the absence of Willy Hernangómez specifically.
The Pistons have a couple of big men of their own — Jon Leuer and Henry Ellenson — who are athletic and can shoot from 12 feet out. If they’re able to get going with contributing and the game starts to get away from the home team, it’d seem wise to not squander a winnable game by letting Willy twiddle his thumbs.
Both teams have shown a propensity to not close games. They go away from simplicity. Tonight’s an opportunity to change that. We know what we have in KP and we know what we have in this team as it is. For the Knicks at home, this is a game that could be a defining moment in setting the tone for a new era.