March 2018
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Knicks Begin Road Trip with Showdown Versus Clippers

Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler via Getty Images
Can Trey Burke’s hot shooting levitate the Knicks pass the Clippers in L.A.? That and more in the Friday match’s preview.

The last time the New York Knicks (24–38) faced the Los Angeles Clippers (32–28) the seafaring team looked vastly different (and they looked vastly different nine months prior, too). The Clippers lost franchise cornerstone Blake Griffin in a deal with Detroit, which netted Long Island native Tobias Harris and Knicks thorn-in-their-side guard Avery Bradley. The Knicks are a vastly different team, too, to some degree, as their franchise cornerstone, Kristaps Porzingis, is sidelined with a torn ACL. Nevertheless, the waning team the Knicks saw last November in New York is on a different path with DeAndre Jordan and Harris as de facto leaders—the Clippers have won seven of their most recent 10 games, and they’re a half-game outside of the Western Conference playoffs picture. In November’s home win versus L.A., the Knicks won on account of solid games from (traded) Doug McDermott and (benched) Jarrett Jack, capping a 10-game losing streak for the Clips. A frustrated Blake Griffin fouled out as well, but those three variables will not be factored in during Friday night’s contest.

The Knicks, on the other hand, are featuring their younger players, like Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Trey Burke, to name a few, and are at an impasse with their highest-paid center, Joakim Noah. The March 1st deadline—in which players waived and bought out could be eligible during the playoffs for their newly signed teams—has passed, and New York is stuck with the tremendously compensated Noah, who’s altercation with head coach Jeff Hornacek has left the former away from the team for some time. While the Knicks sit well out of the playoffs in the East, the remaining 20 games on the schedule, like tonight in L.A., will be used to evaluate talent and decide the position of Ntilikina perhaps.

New Look Clippers

Doc Rivers’ Clippers have had to re-invent themselves twice in one year, since the departure of Chris Paul and now Blake Griffin—and rely on a player reminiscent of the early-00’s Allen Iverson.

That would be Iverson’s former Philadelphia teammate Lou Williams. The Knicks’ tallest task on Friday night is figuring out how to contain Williams and make him shoot bricks instead of streak-starting flamethrowers. Interestingly, with the promotion of Trey Burke from the G League, the Knicks have their own diminutive guard with a propensity to hoist up shots. Burke has averaged 23.3 points per game in New York’s recent three-game stretch (the team went 1–2). Off the bench, Burke, like the veteran Williams, has made a statement as a decent scorer needed with the second unit. To their credit, the Knicks held Lou Will to only eight points and five turnovers in 26 minutes last November. However, since November, Williams has quickly usurped Jamal Crawford’s role on the Clippers are a Super Saiyan sixth man, becoming the go-to scorer for the Clippers for long stretches during games. The Knicks will need a consistently hot-off-the-bench Burke to guide them past the Clippers in L.A.

Tobias Harris, meanwhile, has been on a tear since his relocation to Los Angeles. The 25-year-old forward is averaging 18.7 points on 47.7 percent from the field and 42 percent from three in his brief tenure with the Clippers (10 games), per Basketball-Reference. Harris has a game change, too, this season opting to take (and make) more three-pointers than the NBA had pegged him for, not the back-to-basket power forward he used to be in Orlando. The Knicks will need strong defense from Lance Thomas to mask the free-willing shooting stretch-four from downtown.

Trojan War

Troy Williams has played admirably for a 10-day contract recipient. In limited action, Williams has used his elasticity to rise up tall for loose rebounds and spread the court with perimeter play. Really the only obvious fault we’ve seen from Troy has been, on multiple occasions, a poorly executed jump shot where Williams had not squared up to the basket before releasing a long-range shot. Williams has been known to have a fine three-point shot, although it hasn’t translated yet for New York or in the pros rather.

In a short order of 33 minutes of playing time spread across three games, you can argue Troy deserves a second 10-day contract. However, most of these decisions are made more focused from what coaches gather from practices. Practice, to coaches, are almost equal if not more important than the actual 82 games because of the vacuum nature of discipline and execution. Jeff Hornacek opined during Friday morning shootaround that Williams was deserving of another contract. Hornacek remarked, “I will say [Williams] played well for us,” per NorthJersey’s Chris Iseman.

Tip-off for the Knicks–Clippers showdown is set for 10:30 p.m. EST for your late Friday night viewing pleasure. Oh, and the Knicks haven’t won on the road versus the Clippers since 2010.

Managing Editor of The Knicks Wall. Still not over the ’94 Finals. Andy Bernard levels of Cornell love.


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