Their first post-trade deadline game is on Thursday night, with the makeup of the Knicks roster against the Wizards uncertain.
Fresh off of a blowout win against them on Tuesday, the New York Knicks (22-22) look to defeat these same Washington Wizards (15-27) for the second time this week and third time this year. Washington has been slumping big time, losing seven of eight games. Oddly enough their only victory in that stretch was against the Utah Jazz, who own the best record in the NBA.
For all of the Wizards’ issues this season, talent and production from their guards is not one of them, as they boast one of the most lethal backcourts offensively with Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook. Beal is having a career year, despite all of the turmoil and trade rumors, averaging 31.8 points per game, per ESPN Stats. Westbrook has received a ton of flack, but very close to averaging yet another triple-double for the season at 21.7 points, 10.3 assists, and 9.5 rebounds per game. The addition of Westbrook hasn’t paid dividends in the win column for Scott Brooks’ squad, but this Wizards team is still extremely potent offensively.
In their previous matchup, the Knicks did an excellent job defensively on Westbrook and Beal, holding them to a combined 36 points on 9-of-29 from the field. Since Washington lacks talent otherwise, they couldn’t remain afloat with their two guards struggling. Expect the Knicks’ gameplan to be the same as it was in their 131-113 victory the other day.
After over a month on the sidelines, Mitchell Robinson returned Sunday in limited minutes against the Sixers. Last game against the Wizards, Robinson was dominant to the tune of 16 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks in 31 minutes.
Washington boasts a decent rotation of bigs with grizzled vets Alex Len and Robin Lopez, as well as young, rising star Rui Hachimura. It was impressive to see MitchRob be that impressive in his second game back and it will be interesting to see if he can build on that performance against Washington.
I missed Mitchell Robinson so much. pic.twitter.com/bqxDsAm8vm
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) March 24, 2021
The Knicks’ top two players Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett were excellent against the Wizards’ league-worst defense last game and I don’t expect tonight to be much different. Washington is a sorry defensive unit and has allowed 110-plus points in 18 consecutive games, per ESPN, so it is almost a shoo-in that the Knicks will eclipse that mark tonight.
Randle, who leads the team in points, rebounds, and assists per game, has been doing it all in his breakout season and will get the benefit of building on that against a porous defense. Barrett, who has silenced critics recently will be primed for another 20-plus point evening as well.
With guards Derrick Rose and Austin Rivers still out, you would think that Frank Ntilikina and his defensive prowess would be a perfect fit matchup against Washington’s potent backcourt. The 22-year-old has been anemic too often on offense to justify more than 10 minutes per game as he saw previously against Washington.
Unfortunately, I don’t see Ntilikina garnering a lot of playing time this evening, despite his ability to be a plus defensively. It seems like Tom Thibodeau would rather give Elfrid Payton and Immanuel Quickley point guard minutes due to Frank’s inability to contribute consistently offensively.
Additional Game Notes
- Wizards sharpshooter Davis Bertans will miss his third consecutive game with a calf issue, giving the Knicks one less perimeter weapon to worry about.
- With the NBA trade deadline being today, we may have seen the last of some Knicks like Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, and Austin Rivers? These names have been floated around in trade rumors so don’t be shocked if they are not on the bench/part of the team heading into tonight’s contest.