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Knicks Look to Right Ship Against Nets on MLK Day

Kristaps Porzingis and the Knicks head to Brooklyn on the tail end of a back-to-back on the heels of collapsing against the Pelicans yesterday afternoon.

Coming off a tough home loss against New Orleans (22-20) behind Anthony Davis’s 47 point outburst, the Knicks (19-24) head to Brooklyn looking to snap a three-game skid. Though the Knicks won’t be traveling far for today’s matinee game, it marks the start of a seven game road trip, their longest of the season.

The Knicks have had the Nets number this season, going 2-0 in their earlier meetings, winning by an average margin of 14 points in those contests. The Nets have been struggling recently, to the tune of four losses in their last five games, though two of those losses came by a margin of less than two points to Eastern Conference powerhouses Boston and Toronto.

Here are some things to watch for in this game:


POINT GUARD ROTATIONS

While fans call for Jeff Hornacek’s head as he continues to start Jarrett Jack over Frank Ntilikina, Jack has put together an impressive set of games to hold onto his starting spot. He’s had four straight games with eight or more assists, dropped a triple-double Wednesday in Chicago, and most recently recorded a season-high 22 points on 64.2 percent shooting yesterday against New Orleans. Ntilikina’s playing time, meanwhile, has dwindled since the start of the new year. He has now played under 20 minutes in three straight games as the Knicks continue to ride Jack in crucial fourth quarter spots.

Jack will be matched up against Spencer Dinwiddie, who has admirably stepped up this season with D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin sidelined. He is averaging career highs in points (13.4), assists (6.4), rebounds (3.3), and steals (0.8) per game. He is a shifty, speedy player who has a quick trigger from deep and likes to drive. He has taken 52.7 percent of his shots from three-point range this season and 30.7 percent of his points scored have come in the paint, per NBA Stats.

He’ll be a tough cover for Jarrett Jack, so if he gets going, it’ll be interesting to see how Hornacek handles the rotations with Ntilikina being the superior defender to Jack at the 1.

TURNOVER BATTLE

The Knicks and Nets both rank in the bottom of the league in turnovers per game. The Knicks have displayed a proclivity for turnovers late in games, a killer for a team trying to scrape together enough wins for the 8th seed in a tightly packed middle of the Eastern Conference. They coughed up the ball 25 times against the Pelicans yesterday at MSG.

Late game execution has been a major hurdle for the young Knicks this season, and they’ll have to shore up their late game ball-handling specifically in order to stay competitive. Jarrett Jack had five turnovers yesterday despite his otherwise stellar performance, and also threw the ball away in the waning moments of double overtime against Chicago on Wednesday. If Hornacek is going to ride with Jack down the stretch, as he has in recent games, then Jack needs to take better care of the ball when it matters most.

HARDAWAY JR. GETTING BACK INTO THE GROOVE

The Knicks’ secondary scorer is officially back and rolling. In his two games since returning from injury, he has put up 16 and 25 points leading into today’s matchup against the Nets. He brings back a sorely needed outside threat to spread the floor for Porzingis to operate, in addition to packing a real punch in transition, a category in which the Knicks rank dead last in the NBA.

Good to have you back, Mr. Transition.

Some other things to watch:

• As Hardaway Jr.’s minutes creep up, Jeff Hornacek has some tough roster decisions to make. While Timmy played 33 minutes against New Orleans, Michael Beasley only saw 9 minutes of ugly court time (plus/minus of -16) with three turnovers, McDermott received just 12 minutes of action despite going 3-of-4 from the field, Ntilikina recorded 16 minutes, and Ron Baker did not play.

• Kristaps Porzingis has been struggling of late with his efficiency, shooting 37.8 percent in his last ten games and having not shot higher than 50 percent from the field in any game since December 12th against the Lakers. He is looking at favorable matchups today against undersized 4’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, DeMarre Carroll, and slow-footed Quincy Acy. If he’s going to bust out of his slump anytime soon, today seems like a great opportunity.

• Will newly-signed Trey Burke see some minutes this game? Burke was officially signed to a deal two days ago, but saw no action in his first contest with the team.

Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. EST in Brooklyn.

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