While most of us have spent the last 48 hours tirelessly crushing the refresh button on Carmelo Anthony’s twitter page (“some people kills me softly like Lauren Hill. I tell u”) it might come a suprise to many that the Knicks have a basketball game tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers. Providing us with a preview of tonight’s contest is BoB newcomer Will Woods. Mr. Woods has distinguished himself as a superlative blogger, devoted Knicks fan, as well as the last living member of DerMarr Johnson’s entourage. Only one of these credentials is made up. Without further ado, your preview awaits…
Projected Blazers starters:
PG – Andre Miller: If his production takes its usual upward swing in the new year, he’ll have put together the best year of his career as a poor shooting, non-leaping 34 year-old point guard.
SG – Wes Matthews: Has stepped in for Brandon Roy to put up a point every two minutes, along with quality wing defense.
SF – Nic Batum: Has shot poorly all year, but may be world’s toughest Frenchman. I’m searching for positives here.
PF – LaMarcus Aldridge: Looking to set career highs in points, rebounds, blocks and steals per game while averaging just one more minute a night. Increased usage rate has had little effect on scoring efficiency.
C – Marcus Camby: With whom you’re familiar.
Last Time against Portland: Andre Miller went 6-8 from the field, including multiple outside jumpers and a three, and I remember thinking that I didn’t remember Miller as such a good shooter. Well, that was his only three so far this season, and odds are he won’t be able to hurt the Knicks like that again even if left alone. Also, Brandon Roy took the Knicks defense behind the woodshed with 15 third-quarter points to stave off a Knick run and keep the Blazers in line for a 100-95 win. And hey, Roy is out with injury. Problem solved.
Lineup Change: It appears Ronny Turiaf is next in the conga line of starters, replacing Shawne Williams and Toney Douglas. Turiaf had apparently fallen down a well Sunday night as Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol ran roughshod over our undersized front line. Tonight’s mission is to keep Camby and his deputy, Joel Przybilla, off the boards.
If you’re interested, 82games.com reports tonight’s supposed starting five (Felton-Fields-Chandler-Stoudemire-Turiaf) has been the Knicks’ eighth most common unit, playing just under 29 minutes together so far and recording a +5 in point differential. Obviously we haven’t seen much of this five, but for what it’s worth, they have been among the Knicks’ more efficient units offensively, scoring 1.25 points per possession. (Our normal starting five – subbing Danilo Gallinari for Turiaf – scores 1.16 points per possession.)
If Anthony Randolph Weren’t Filming the 127 Hours Sequel, It Would Be Nice to Throw Him on: Aldridge, whose length, athleticism and ability to suck his defender away from the basket may have Amar’e expending more energy on defense than we’d prefer.
Toney Douglas Needs to Put a Freakin’ Bell on: Paddy Mills, Portland’s lone dribble penetrator. Keep him out of the paint and the Knicks ought to be dealing with fewer mismatch problems than usual this evening.
Player Hater’s Ball: If you’ve got any hate that needs to be let loose, today’s Baller Hater’s Play is LaMarcus Aldridge. Sure he’s having his best season statistically, but he tries to do everything from the perimeter, plays defense-optional, and he’s softer than Tijuana ice cream. Hate hate hate, hate hate, hate hate.
Honorable mentions: Miller – could you at least act like playing basketball for millions of dollars is fun? – and Rudy Fernandez, a “shooter” who can’t shoot and for some reason thinks he deserves more playing time.
Tip of the Cap: Tip your cap tonight to Marcus Camby – a great rebounder, great shot blocker, great defender, and once a great Knick. Pay homage to Camby as you watch this game alone in your underwear at midnight, and know you’re not alone. Also, for those watching in standard definition, Camby and Aldridge tend to have a bit of a Gallo/Fields thing going, where it’s tough to tell them apart on the court. As a reminder, Camby will be the one less than 15 feet from the basket, and actually burning some calories out there.
A Few Good Sentences About: Turiaf, the starting lineup’s newest entrant. You may have noticed that Turiaf has ratcheted up the hacking and whacking of late, and you’d be right. This season Ronny has fouled about once every 6.5 minutes, only slightly worse than his career average, but over the last six games he’s averaging a foul every 4.73 minutes. (For context, your fouls per minute leader this season is the amazing Johan Petro, who’s fouling once every 5.05 minutes.) Does it explain why Turiaf only played seven minutes in Sunday’s loss to the Lakers? No, no it does not. Still, let’s hope Camby’s lack of post offense will keep Turiaf in the game longer.
We tend to think of Portland as playing something of a European style in terms of egalitarian minute distribution. They have a lot of “assets” and in the past they’ve had trouble finding solid roles for everyone. Today things are different, with Jerryd Bayless dumped for a first rounder, and Roy and Greg Oden out with injury. This is suddenly a very thin team that will ask Batum, Matthews and Aldridge to combine for 120 minutes. The individual matchups are fairly comparable, but this is a great opportunity for the Knicks to steal one on the road, and show they’ve grown as a team from earlier in the season.
Let’s show Portland that you can’t win with two starting guards shooting set shots. This isn’t 1968, guys.