New York, only 1–5 sans KP, face Curry, Durant, and the fire-breathing Warriors without the Knicks’ top gun.
Where is this team going? Your guess is as good as mine at this point. The Knicks have perfected the Jekyll and Hyde routine. On Friday, they played a strong game against the Jazz. New York followed that performance up with an absolute stinker on Sunday in L.A. versus a banged up Lakers team.
Tonight, they take on the defending champs in their house. The Warriors will be looking to get the sour taste of Saturday’s loss in Houston out of their collective mouth. Golden State wasn’t at full strength for that game (Andre Iguodala did not play with a sore calf) but will be on Tuesday. Expectations could not be lower for the Knicks.
But you know what they say? A team with nothing to lose could be the most dangerous. The Knicks know first hand what can happen when a team is not taken seriously. Can they shock the defending champs at home?
Before we can answer that let’s run through what they have to do to give the Warriors competition.
Step It Up
If you missed Sunday’s stinker against the Lakers, here is a brief summary:
Jordan Clarkson scored 29 points. Gets asked what he saw out there vs Knicks.
Josh Hart answers for him: “Nobody.”
— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) January 21, 2018
Jordan Clarkson was not the only Laker to find success. (Future Knick) Julius Randle tore them apart for 27 points, 12 boards, and five assists. You had the usual wide open threes but even worse was the access to the paint that Kanter, Porzingis, and the Knicks’ bigs allowed. I had PTSD watching the second half, like Andrea Bargnani was still patrolling the paint.
If the Knicks keep that same pathetic defensive energy—that allowed the Lakers to shoot 56 percent from the field—on Tuesday, then this game is already over. The Warriors are arguably the greatest offensive team in history. They possess two top five scorers. If Randle and Clarkson feasted, just imagine what Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry will do to the orange and blue.
The defense has been the catalyst for this January swoon. The Knicks have surrendered 112.5 points per game this month. It’s washed away how good the offense has been, and yet no one is really talking about it. Maybe it’s time for Kurt Rambis to finally find the nearest exit.
The Young & The Rested
Speaking of moving on, why is Jarrett Jack still seeing major minutes? Don’t get me wrong Jack deserves to start games. Having said that, why the hell is he outplaying Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke? Sunday, Jack played 26 minutes while Burke and Frank combined for 25 minutes.
Burke’s seven minutes in particular bothered me. On Friday, he gave Hornacek some damn good minutes down the stretch. He ran the offense effectively and passed the ball right into shooter’s hip pockets. Is that how you reward strong play? I understand Hornacek likes Jack, but right now the Knicks are running in quicksand.
I sound like a DJ Khaled Snap at this point, but it has to be said once again. It’s time to go young. Live and die with the development of Frank and see what you have in Burke.
Matchup of the Night: Tim Hardaway Jr. vs. Klay Thompson
With Kristaps Porzingis out for tonight, the onus of the offense falls to Shimmy Timmy. Since returning from injury, Hardaway Jr. has been scorching hot from three, connecting on 68.8 percent over his last two games. Coming into tonight, he is averaging 22 points since his return from injury on 52 percent shooting. The Knicks will need that hot streak to continue if they are going to have a prayer in this one.
Hardaway Jr.’s task is even more difficult given his matchup. Outside of Iguodala, Klay Thompson is the best wing defender on the Warriors. He is also the third-best shooter on the team—that in itself shows you how absurdly stacked this team is—so Timmy will have to play both sides of the floor. It’s doubtful Steve Kerr sends doubles Timmy’s way so winning his matchup will go a long way.
- Kristaps Porzingis (knee irritation) and Kyle O’Quinn (calf contusion) are both out tonight, per Ian Begley.
- Courtney Lee’s free-throw streak remains at a franchise-best 52. Despite Lee’s proficient shooting from the charity stripe, Lee does not get to the line often, nor did he get to the line on Sunday versus the Lakers.
- Billyball appears to be nothing but hot air from Hornacek’s mouth. Since the Mavericks game, Willy Hernangómez has played 14 more minutes then you and me. Disappointing development to say the least.
Tip-off is set for 10:30 p.m. on MSG Network.