Although the New York Knicks won this game 98-89, two guards still went down with minor injuries. The goal during preseason is to avoid injuries, but unfortunately, this was not the case tonight. First and foremost, although this is only preseason, you look for the little things that will make a big impact in the upcoming season. Once again, Mike Woodson played a lot of small ball in the first half. The thing that disturbed me the most was poor point guard play and poor defense in the first quarter, of which the Wizards took a 30-29 lead. The one point difference is not the issue — the fact that the Knicks starters gave up 30 points in the first quarter is disturbing. What also was a concern was Iman Shumpert’s injury, diagnosed as a sprained elbow.
Shumpert’s injury was compounded by an elbow sprain to Pablo Prigioni. These types of potentially nagging injuries in the preseason are coaches and fans’ worst nightmare. Shumpert said post game, “I’m OK, it was my funny bone, and if it was not preseason, I could have continued playing. But the staff wanted to be cautious.” He seemed happy and positive during this interview, which was a positive sign.
There were bright spots, however. The second quarter exemplified once again how Tim Hardaway Jr., could be the steal of the draft. He made a few key three-pointers, played excellent defense, and showed maturity beyond his years at both ends of the court. Ike Diogu was similarly important in that second quarter, perhaps earning himself a roster spot by clearly out-playing Josh Powell.
However, Raymond Felton again looked soft and was torched by the Wizards backcourt. Felton did not penetrate or offer an offensive presence that the Knicks need from their starting point guard. Carmelo Anthony and Andrea Bargnani demonstrated great chemistry, scoring with 22 and 13 points, respectively. Bargnani lead the Knicks with 3 blocked shots. As many consider him a defensive liability this was a positive sign that he was at least active around the basket.
The Knicks finished the half out-shooting the Wizards with 54% shooting , shooting 8-15 from the three point line. However, the Knicks were out-rebounded 21-17. They took a 59 -46 lead into halftime.
The third quarter with the Knick starters on the floor started the same way the game began with the Wizards going on a 14-0 run to take the lead. Woodson smartly took out Felton and Prigioni, sending a needed message, and brought in Beno Udrih and Toure Murry, and the Knicks regained a 9 point lead. The third quarter finished with the Knicks leading 78-68, led by Carmelo’s 10 points in the quarter. His 22 points and 5 rebounds in 29 minutes gave us glimpses of ‘Melo in regular-season form.
The forth quarter was sub city. Ike Diogu and Tourie Murry made a great impact. Murry shot 5-7 , from the field with 14 points and two steals and clearly outplayed Felton. Woodson has many major decisions to make as Udih shot 5-9 for 12 points and had the best plus minus on the floor as+ 24, versus Felton’s + 5.
Ike Diogu once again made an impact on both ends of the floor with 10 points and 8 rebounds in 23 minutes. Josh Powell was 0-4 in 19 minutes, held scoreless, as was Cole Aldrich who only played 4 minutes — not a good sign. Diogu clearly looks like the big to make this squad.
Hardaway again had a solid game shooting 5-12 and 3-6 from the three point line for 14 points.
Chris Smith was 0-3, while c.J. Leslie and Chris Douglas Roberts did not play. This is not a good sign for either rookie trying to make the team.
It is too early to give a final analysis, but it appears Diogu is the preseason favorite to make the team. With Cole Aldrich again getting little playing time, it appears Woodson is not enthralled with his game. If he gets cut, it leaves the Knicks without a backup center. This will not bode well against larger team like the Brooklyn Nets. The Knicks cannot go into the season without a true backup center to dominate the East.
The Knicks have shown some positives thus far, but the holes on this roster are still glaring.