Pump Up Music: Cowboy Mouth -- "Jenny Says"
The Big Picture: The New York Knicks come to the Cable Box tonight looking to continue a hot streak during which they've beaten Phoenix, Portland, and Atlanta. Though they're on a road trip, they ought to be well rested, since they last played on Friday at New Orleans.
The Knicks are in a position similar to the Bobcats for this season, in the sense that the playoffs are within sight and they're probably going to edge right up to those seven and eight seeds by game 82, but that's where the similarity ends. They play a super-fast pace, whereas the Cats tend to slow it down. Their coach loves the three point shot, and our coach grudgingly accepts it. But most important, as an organization, they're not playing for this season, whereas the Cats are going for everything they can get in 2009-10.
They've been winning despite benching Nate Robinson, who I'm pretty sure isn't a problem due to his performance. He's fifth on the team in True Shooting Percentage and fourth in eFG%, and he dishes assists nearly as often as Chris Duhon (their secret -- or not-so-secret -- black hole), so it's not like he's destroying their offense. Rather, the Knicks have had an ongoing attitude issue that Mike D'Antoni has struggled to address. If you're not playing for this season, then what are these guys playing for? If the hope is that these guys' competitive natures would take over and pull them through the full season without any other motivation, that seems rather shortsighted.
It would probably do both teams a world of good if they could trade a pinch of ethos here for a pinch of ethos there.
Key to Victory: Danilo Gallinari will probably come off the bench for New York, and he may play fewer than 30 minutes, but he represents the biggest matchup problem for Charlotte. A 6-9 forward, he leads the team in three point attempts and has made 45% of them. In our standard lineup, Gerald Wallace would usually guard him, but that would take him away from the basket to a degree most small forwards don't, and I'm worried the Knicks can find a rebounding advantage if they force Crash onto The Rooster.
Secondarily, David Lee is an excellent rebounder and I expect him to give Tyson Chandler fits. When Tyson gets the ball on offense, he simply doesn't have the offensive arsenal to exploit his size advantage, and Lee is probably a little quicker. When Lee is on offense, he can shoot from outside the key well enough that it has to be respected, finish with either hand, and he will rarely be outworked on the boards. We may well see Larry Brown limit Tyson to 20 minutes for effectiveness reasons, not foul trouble, and go with Diaw at center for long stretches.