The Knicks host the Wizards at the Garden on Monday night, seeking a victory against a dysfunctional team that beat New York last month.
Following a great overtime win over the second-place Bucks, the Knicks (8-16) will wrap up the second and final game of their mini home stand tonight against Washington (9-14). New York is looking to string together its fifth win in the last seven games.
Washington’s Rough Start
Coming into the season, the Wizards had somewhat high expectations. After adding Dwight Howard to a seasoned core that won 49 games last season, Washington entered the year looking like a lock to make the playoffs.
As of now the Wizards are falling dangerously short of expectations, thanks to an under-performing roster and a pesky lower back injury that has kept their newly-signed big man from playing more than nine games. Although they’ve seen some improvement since a 1-7 start to the season, Washington is still struggling to get to .500, and are only 1.5 games ahead of the Knicks (that’s a bad thing). The Wiz will be looking to pick up their second win in a row tonight after taking down the Nets in their last outing.
Since being placed in the starting lineup in November, Emmanuel Mudiay has seen his game advance drastically. It used to be painful to watch him with the ball in his hands, looking to create a shot. Now, Mudiay is much more confident with the ball, and has improved both his jump shot and finishing at the rim. A prime example of this was his game against Milwaukee Saturday night. With the game on the line and the Knicks trailing the ball kept ending up in Mudiay’s hands, and he kept finding ways to put it in the basket. Whether it was getting to the line, a tough layup, or a three ball—he just kept scoring. Thanks in part to the point guard’s 28 points, New York was able to fight back from a deficit and beat the Bucks in overtime.
It’s been great to see Mudiay exceed expectations so far this season. Hopefully we see him keep up this level of play tonight against Washington and through the rest of the season.
Stopping the Backcourt
If the Knicks are going to contain the Wizards’ offense, they’ll have to start with stopping their backcourt. John Wall and Bradley Beal have consistently been one of the league’s top guard duos for the last few years, and despite a lackluster season for their team and even trade rumors concerning the two swirling around, they’re still having great individual seasons.
Although it’s unlikely that New York will be able to completely shut down Beal and Wall, they’ll need to slow them down. We’ll likely see Fizdale and the coaching staff throwing different matchups at them throughout the game and seeing what sticks to find the best way to stop the two. Look for Ntilikina to be utilized heavily after catching a DNP last time out. Frankie’s elite defense will be needed tonight against a great offensive backcourt.
- Trey Burke is questionable tonight with a knee injury he sustained shortly after checking into the game on Saturday.
- Lance Thomas is out with a knee injury.
- Dwight Howard is out with that lingering lower back injury and will remain out for at least 2-3 months after undergoing surgery.
- Courtney Lee is still out with the neck injury that’s kept him sidelined since the preseason.