What a strange game last night. Orlando really wanted the Knicks to have it (honestly, I think we learned more about the Magic last night than the Knicks – something is seriously missing there) and our boys just couldn’t break through. But, as the great Manny Trillo once said, “The great thing about baseball basketball is you can do something about yesterday tomorrow.” Tonight the Knicks return home for the Hornets, who after winning ten in a row have lost 11 of 15 and, like the Knicks, are playing a back-to-back and third in four nights.
PG – Chris Paul: With whom you’re familiar.
SG – Willie Green: Huh.
SF – Trevor Ariza: Remember when trading away young players was cool?
PF – David West: His FG% and PPG numbers have fluctuated by no more than 3% and one point, respectively. Although I guess it’s easy to be so consistent when you see who’s getting him the ball.
C – Emeka Okafor: Playing his fourth game after missing almost a month with an oblique injury. Averaging a double-double (barely).
Who Gets a Uniform?: Derrick Brown and Jared Jeffries are expected to be in uniform tonight to add defense and glue and bluecollarty and whatever the hell else they’ve been brought in to do. The big news, however, is that Chauncey Billups is out tonight after taking a thigh contusion from Dwight Howard late in last night’s game. That means more minutes for Toney Douglas, Bull Walker and The 800-Pound Anthony Carter in the Room.
Hornets Rotation: You might be thinking, who in the hell would back up Willie Green? Would anyone even accept the ignominy? You enter every game with a huge mess to clean up, but because you’re Willie Green’s backup, you’re totally incapable of doing anything about it. Anyway, Green’s backup is Marco Belinelli – I’m pretty sure this is what immigration people are referring to when they talk about jobs Americans aren’t willing to do.
New Orleans will also feature deadline acquisition and Knick abuser Carl Landry, who spearheaded a Hornet bench that went off for 49 points last night. If Landry performs to his previous numbers against the Knicks, there may be no such domination of the second unit as we saw in Orlando. Jarrett Jack will also get heavy time spelling Paul and cleaning up after Green.
Confounding Rebounding: Despite being outrebounded overall (37% FG will do that), last night the Knicks grabbed 11 offensive boards against the best defensive rebounding team in the league. Tonight they face…the second best defensive rebounding team in the league. A repeat performance would be a pretty significant step forward for one of the Knicks’ biggest weaknesses.
Last Time vs. New Orleans: Chris Paul never got out of third gear and the Knicks earned a surprisingly comfortable 100-92 road win. Amar’e Stoudemire abused Okafor with 34 points on 15-22 shooting, and Shawne Williams took advantage of his first extended minutes of the year with three treys. Remember when he used to hit those?
A Few Good Sentences on: Bull Walker. As alluded to above, I am fearful that Billups’ absence tonight will lead to far more Anthony Carter than either Douglas or Walker, both of whose play has improved of late. Walker in particular looks like a different player since the trade – the effort level appears to be up, and it looks like he may have realized that with just a team option for next season, it may be now or never for his career in New York. He still can’t get to the hole or shoot off the dribble, but if he keeps the energy up, he can be a rotation player in the league. If he wants to jog from arc to arc and jack threes, well, I’m sure the Belgian scouts are drooling.
What’s Wrong Different with CP3?: Something appeared to be up with Chris Paul in the Hornets’ December loss to the Knicks: he looked two steps slow, didn’t seem to want to call his own number, and was a shadow of the guy we’d come to know. He looked like he was either carrying injury or wanted to be traded immediately, and yet his numbers are holding steady. Well, Ryan Schwan conveniently posted this article to TrueHoop today about how CP3 is getting it done differently post-surgery. Worth a read. My take: that Paul took almost no time to make wholesale adjustments to his style shows how special he really is. How many guys’ production wouldn’t even take a dip during something like that?
New Orleans is second from the bottom of the league in pace, and scored just four fast break points last night against Toronto. In early December the Knicks easily adapted to the Hornets’ style of play, forcing 19 turnovers and grinding it out in the half court against a team without a dominant big. This Knicks team should be even better suited to do the same. David West didn’t play last time, and Chauncey Billups won’t play this time, but this is still a game where the Knicks ought to be able to rely on their stars to defend home court. There will be times in April where the team will have to do just that; with every passing game, we’re beginning to see if they’re up to the task.