Seems like all year the Knicks have had home games just to bookend the next six-game west coast swing. They’d fly in for one or two games from across the country and head right back out, probably no less fatigued than if they’d just stayed on the road in the first place. Over the first two months of the year, although they had played one of the league’s easier schedules, the Knicks were also at the top of the league in games played even with the postponement of the Orlando game. More recently, they’ve had a rash of games against teams with more than two days off to rest and prepare.
I think it’s time for a break in the schedule, don’t you? Well lately, we’ve gotten one: with another two days off to begin this week, the Knicks have now played the third fewest games in the league, although their overall strength of schedule has crept back to close to .500. As noted Friday, they’re in the midst of a four-week stretch in which non-All Star participants may not have to even board a plane. And tonight, they begin a slate of three games that includes the best kind of road back-to-back – the kind where you travel a half hour to New Jersey – and where all three opponents will have played games the previous night (and even the Nets are flying in from Charlotte). After the Nets, they’ll have three days off to get ready for Atlanta, and wouldn’t it be nice if they actually showed up for a Hawks game?
Meanwhile, the Clippers’ uppance has come. They’ve played nine more games at home than on the road, and they’ve dropped the first three games of an 11-game (!) road trip. Tonight they try to rebound from last night’s beatdown in Orlando against a rested Knick team. Last time against the Clippers, New York seemed content to let Blake Griffin do whatever he wanted as long as no one else got too hot. With Eric Gordon missing his ninth straight game tonight, that might seem a workable strategy again. So, who’s going to be helping out the Blake show? As it turns out, just about everybody. Let’s throw out some names.
PG – Baron Davis: For all the talk of his revitalized career, he isn’t playing better than usual by any metric I can find, including the naked eye. Oh, except the career high in alley-oop passes. Has also been shooting threes better lately.
SG – Randy Foye: Has gotten the lion’s share of extra minutes in lieu of Gordon. If he keeps shooting this poorly, those minutes may be up for grabs.
SF – Ryan Gomes: I know, right?
PF – Griffin: Anybody else secretly hoping for another big superstar debut at MSG?
C – DeAndre Jordan: A player to watch tonight. He’s an unrestricted free agent after this season and may just fit the Knicks’ budget, depending on how everything shakes out of course. Good offensive rebounder and has really improved his finishing at the basket.
Knicks’ Injury Watch: The Knicks will be without Ronny Turiaf yet again this evening as he recovers from a sprained ankle. Which reminds me…
A Few Good Sentences: There’s no half-steppin’ to Blake Griffin, Timmy Mozgov. I’ll be watching Moz intently, especially early on, because if he gets in foul trouble early it may be all downhill from there. If there’s one thing Mike D’Antoni has taught us, it’s not to give him any excuse to punt rebounding and go small; no Turiaf, early fouls on Mozgov, and suddenly you’ve got Shawne Williams at the five and Landry Fields is expected to grab 20 boards. Griffin and Jordan are two very strong rebounders, so Moz will have to get his box-out on, and quick decision-making on dribble drives may lead to a dunk or two, but should keep him out of foul trouble. Timmy, I beseech thee, keep thyself on the court.
Clippers Rotation: It seems like the entire Clippers team averages 23 minutes a night. New to the rotation – well, he’ll be new to the Knicks, anyway – is undersized power forward Ike Diogu. Signed while working out at a health club recovering from knee surgery (and isn’t that a very Clippery way to sign someone?), Diogu is scoring and rebounding at much the same rate he did before his injury. Which is to say, very well.
Rookies Eric Bledsoe and Al-Farouq Aminu should see twenty minutes apiece, and Brian Cook, who nailed three treys last time against the Knicks, will pitch in time as well. Craig Smith is out injured, and Rasual Butler appears to be the only guy who has actually played his way out of the rotation.
This Is One Way to Defend Blake: Deadspin published this piece yesterday (check out the video as well), and the lesson, as always, is that Andre Miller needs emotional counseling.
With Gordon out: A normal man’s game might suffer from having Gordon out. Unfortunately, Blake Griffin is no ordinary man; his numbers have barely been affected at all. But Gordon’s absence leaves more than just 24 points a game on the table – it leaves the Clippers with very little viable three-point shooting. Davis: 30% – Foye: 29% – Bledsoe: 25%. Gomes and Aminu are shooting a respective 35 and 36 percent in limited minutes, and Cook is at 43% in mostly cameo appearances.
One caveat: as noted above, Davis has been shooting much better from distance of late. My response: please keep shooting. It’s like when Al Harrington would make his first few shots, and you knew it would lead to his taking every horrendous shot in the book, and suddenly the Knicks were down 20 and Al was 5-17. Only, you know, the exact opposite of that, because this time it will fun to watch.
The Dunkbot has put some shine on the Clippers, but the Gordon injury has put a Cinderella playoff run on ice. They’ve lost six of eight in his absence, and they’ve won three road games all year. It’s a road back-to-back. The Knicks have had two days off at home. It should be as simple as that, but the Clippers are getting to the point that, when Blake is involved, you just never know.
Then again, what the hell am I talking about? The Knicks are involved. Of course we never know.