Game: New York Knicks at Los Angeles Clippers
Sunday, March 17 at 3:30 p.m.
At perhaps the most pivotal point of the season, everything seems to be falling apart for the New York Knicks. Their three best and highest-paid players are all currently sidelined due to injury. They have dropped from the second seed to the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and high aspirations for a championship this year suddenly look meek.
On Sunday, the Knicks (38-24) will take their second crack at beating the Lob City Clippers (45-21). Despite the Knicks playing with a healthy lineup in front of their home crowd last month, the Clippers cruised to a 14-point win. The Knicks have struggled most against teams with elite point guards, most notably evidenced by Steph Curry’s 54-point performance against New York on Feb. 27. Sunday’s game will be an uphill battle for the struggling Knicks against arguably the best point guard in the league, Chris Paul.
The Knicks have shown porous pick-and-roll defense all season long, and this will be an even more daunting task to address if reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler is unable to suit up.
The Knicks have one ace up their sleeve that they have been criticized for all year: their age. The 2012-13 Knicks are the oldest team in NBA history, but have cleverly used this to their advantage, similar to the San Antontio Spurs who play high IQ basketball. With age comes experience, and Mike Woodson is well aware that his team isn’t as athletically gifted as the Clippers. As a a consequence, they will have to rely on their experience and tough defense to remain afloat.
When the Knicks defense is set-up, they can be extremely difficult to score on. The Clippers will successfully combat this by pushing the ball in transition as much as possible.
Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith will have a heavy load to carry if Anthony is unable to give it a go or plays limited minutes.
Former Knick Jamal Crawford, the “X” factor, will post high scoring numbers as he will be looking to out-duel his biggest competition in Smith for the Sixth Man of the Year award.
Expect Chris Paul to post scoring numbers in the mid-20s, with about seven assists. The fact of the matter is that Los Angeles’ approach is one that New York has struggled to defend all season long.
With the Knicks’ backs up against the wall, I expect them to give the Clippers a good fight in the early going. They may even get off to a hot start and hold the lead for a short period of time. But their injuries will catch up to them against a fast-paced Los Angeles Clippers team, which is why I expect a double-digit loss.
Look for the Knicks to get their swag back the following night against the Utah Jazz, who are dead last in the league at defending the 3-pointer, the Knicks’ specialty.