Pre-Game News and Notes
Knicks vs. Hawks: ESPN, MSG 7PM
The Knicks will look to continue their nine game winning streak in Atlanta tonight against the Hawks on the second night of a back-to-back. The Knicks have been very successful thus far this season in the second games of back-to-back, going 10-6 in the season so far. The Knicks have some history in their favor going into the game tonight according to Elias Sports Bureau, as the Hawks are 2-13 over the past 18 seasons against teams playing against them with a nine-game or more winning streak. Here are some things to look for in the game tonight as the Knicks will look to hold onto the second place in the Eastern Conference and cement their spot atop the Atlantic Division.
-Does Melo Continue His Hot Streak?
Expecting Carmelo Anthony to go for 50 points is absurd, but hoping that he builds off of his career performance last night is not. Anthony has now put together two strong, efficient scoring games against tough teams in the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. It would not be a shocker though is Anthony does put up a big scoring performance tonight.
In his last game against the Hawks, Anthony went off for 42 points in a Knicks win on January 27th. A reason for this is the Hawks, like many teams in the NBA, do not have a player on the roster that can match Anthony’s quickness and strength. Josh Smith will most likely start off the game guarding Anthony but he is better suited at guarding the low post; Anthony torched Smith in the last matchup, going nine of 12 from the three point line.
The Knicks should also put Anthony in more pick-and-roll situations, as the combination of him and Tyson Chandler was unstoppable in the last meeting between the two.
-What Can we Expect From Chandler?
Speaking of Chandler, how he looks today is something to keep an eye on. Chandler returned last night from a 10 game absence because of neck and knee injuries. He played only 24 minutes as head coach Mike Woodson managed his minutes, so seeing how he bounces back tonight is worthwhile. The Knicks started their win streak without the presence of Chandler in the middle, but everyone knows that the only way the Knicks will be successful in the playoffs is with a healthy Chandler manning the middle.
It will be easier to bring Chandler along with Kenyon Martin filling the void so well, giving the Knicks another defensive minded player so that there is a tough, hardnosed player manning the middle at all times. Expect Marcus Camby to be worked in as well, giving the Knicks a very defensive-centric three-man big rotation.
-Will the Improved Guard Play Continue?
During the slump the Knicks went into for a few weeks, one thing that stood out was the poor guard play. Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert were both working their way back from injury and looked rusty, not being in a groove yet and trying to get back into game shape. It looks now that both players have hit their stride at the perfect time for the Knicks heading into the playoffs.
Felton has become more aggressive for the Knicks and it has resulted in positive results. When the Knicks were playing well in the beginning of the season, a big reason was because of the guard penetrating and kicking for open three pointers and that is what Felton is providing once again. He showed this against the Heat Tuesday night in the fourth quarter, penetrating the lane and dishing for easy dunks by Martin or creating easy scoring opportunities for himself.
Shumpert has finally started to come back around to the player that the Knicks had playing for them last year. After suffering a torn ACL in the first game of the playoffs last season against the Heat, Shumpert struggled upon returning in January. He lacked lateral quickness and explosiveness but has started to come around. In March Shumpert began to heat up from the three point line, going 26-53, good for 49.1 percent. Shumpert worked hard on his jump shot and it is showing now as the Knicks desperately need floor spacers so that Anthony can do his work on the wings.