By, Kenneth Teape – Knickswag Contributor
Pre-Game News and Notes
Thunder vs. Knicks: TNT 8pm
The Knicks will not only be under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden tonight but also on national television, as the Thunder come into New York for their only visit this season. The Knicks have fared well against the Western Conference at home, winning nine of 12 games this season, but tonight very well may be their biggest Western Conference test this season. The Thunder own the third best record in the NBA at 44-16 and will present a big test for the Knicks tonight.
-Bring it on Defense
The Knicks only chance of pulling out a victory tonight is if they bring the effort and intensity on the defensive side of the ball tonight. The Thunder boast one of the best offenses in the NBA thanks to the dynamic duo of Kevin Durant (28.6 points per game) and Russell Westbrook (23.6 points per game). Those players are key contributors to the Thunder having a league-high 110.7 points per 100 possessions and run a deadly pick-and-roll game.
This could be a disaster for the Knicks, who have struggled in slowing down the pick-and-roll and opposing guards are season, will have their hands full tonight. Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert will have to set the tone right from the start on the defensive end as the Knicks have very little chance of pulling this one out unless they can slow the Thunder down some, as the Knicks do not have as efficient of an offense as the Thunder do.
March has brought an improvement to the Knicks defense, as they have allowed teams to shoot only 43.5 percent from the field for 90.3 points per game in four games. Unfortunately the one loss the Knicks have in that stretch is against a team most likely better than the Thunder in the Heat.
-Will Melo Play?
Another factor in how much of a chance the Knicks have tonight is if Carmelo Anthony will suit up. Anthony sat Wednesday night against the Pistons after hurting his knee Monday night in Cleveland with a sore knee. Last night Mike Woodson said that Anthony had some fluid buildup on the knee and would ultimately have the call if he wanted to play.
If Anthony is out the Knicks chances of winning will fall squarely on the shoulders of Amar’e Stoudemire to score the basketball with J.R. Smith playing the sidekick. Stoudemire has embraced the role in the last two games, scoring 22 points against both the Cavaliers and Pistons and doing it efficiently at the same time. If Smith can score almost as efficiently as Stoudemire has been the Knicks chances of winning would growth exponentially.
Stoudemire will and should still come off the bench tonight and continue to lead the second unit thanks to the help of Jason Kidd who has embraced his role as the backup point guard and second unit leader.
-Cut down the Turnovers
Early on in the season the Knicks had success because they would not turn the ball over. They are still ranked atop the NBA in turnovers per game at 12.1 per game, but lately have had some high turnover games making it more difficult on themselves to pick up victories. The first two months of the season they were turning the ball over less than 11 times per game.
They have been overly-sloppy in their four March games as well, turning the ball over an average of 16 times per game. Wednesday was especially tough for the Knicks, who turned the ball over 20 total times and 11 times in the first quarter alone. The Knicks will be in for a long night if they are unable to take care of the ball as Durant and Westbrook would like for nothing more to put on a show in Madison Square Garden in transition.
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