It’s a quick turnaround for the 2018 Knicks, who find themselves with a tough matchup with the surging Wizards on the second leg of a back-to-back.
The Knicks started the new year at the Garden, losing to the Spurs for the second time in six days. Nevertheless, New York finds itself on the road again, facing one of the most confounding young teams in the East. Looking to improve their road record (3–12), the Knicks’s best way to beat the Wizards is from the three-point line, where D.C. allows opponents to take 29.5 triples per game, good for the 12th worst spot in the NBA.
We’ve been pleading through our bright screens for the squad to start letting it fly from beyond the arc. The inconsistent Wizards defense has teams averaging roughly 37 percent outside right now. The Knicks have finished at 26 percent, 36 percent, and 17 percent respectively in their last three road games. That is embarrassing for a team that’s equipped with very capable three-point shooters! Kristaps Porzingis alone is 3-for-13 in those losses (and the one win versus New Orleans, which he only sunk a single trey). He finished the month of December notching 32 percent from long distance, per ESPN. Without beating what seems to be a dead horse, KP has to start heating up again in order for the Knicks to be able to compete on the road, spread opposing defenses thin, and stretch the floor in New York’s favor.
One of the positive observations about this team this year is its bench. The role players have been relatively active in the offense and wreaking havoc on star players defensively. The Wizards’ bench added a few quality contributors in the off-season as well. This is how they factor against the Knicks.
Matchup to watch: Michael Beasley vs. Mike Scott
Beasley has thoroughly impressed all of us this year. After the Derrick Williams “era,” it was difficult to know what to expect from a wayward former no. 2 draft pick. Yet Beas has elicited MVP chants every time he checks in at the scores’ table and it’s because of what he’s able to do as a shooter.
The crafty lefty is clocking in 93 percent of his minutes as a four, coming in for KP. Per Basketball-Reference, he’s finishing around the rim at a 69.2 percent rate with an overall shooting percentage of 51.7 percent in just 18.3 minutes per game. He’s able to not only beat his man off the dribble but able to extend over big men away from the basket to knock down impressive pull-up jumpers from tough angles.
Mike Scott has had quite the resurgence in Washington. With Markieff Morris and Otto Porter Jr. missing games, Scott has had the opportunity to showcase his productivity off the bench. He’s in the midst of a career year as a scorer: averaging 9.8 points per game while shooting 42 percent from the arc.
Watching these two sixth men go at it should be fun because one is a (much) lesser skilled version of the other. More importantly, it’ll be interesting to see if Beasley continues his trend of attacking and getting to the rack or if he attempts to keep up with Scott from long-range.
ESPN’s Kevin Pelton answered a question in his weekly mailbag recently relating to the Wizards’ tendency to play down to their competition. In it he mentioned how the Knicks are one of the teams in the league that are less likely to play up or down versus opponents. But regarding the Wizards’ trends, Pelton said this:
The Wizards don’t score as more consistent without considering context because they have tended to blow out bad teams at times. However, their poor games against weak opposition have frequently resulted in bad losses.
One way to interpret Pelton’s assertion is that basically when the Wizards phone it in against lowly teams, those games stand out and judged as they played badly, not that the other team was playing significantly better. And by the Knicks continuing to struggle on the road, this is precisely the type of game that’ll give us hope about their general improvement as a road team.
January is a rough patch for the Knicks as they will be on the road for 13 out of 16 games. Whatever the focus is forging ahead, let’s hope that the team can eek out a better shooting percentage from beyond the arc and heal their troubles on the road in 2018 in the District.