I know it’s early, but I’m afraid I’m starting to believe in the New York Knicks. After years of torment, and disappointment I think this team could be for real.
The Knicks went 2-2 this past week, and have another tough week ahead of them. Three of the four games this week are away from Madison Square Garden and will test New York on the road again.
The Knicks go to Charlotte on Monday. Wednesday night is back to MSG for one game. This will be New York’s first time taking on the Brooklyn Nets with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. On Friday, the Knicks go to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers for the second time this season, then the week wraps up with a matinee against the Boston Celtics on Sunday. The Knicks have surprised a lot of people so far this season, and look to build on their early momentum.
Knicks vs Hornets (1/11)
Knicks versus Hornets will be a very young matchup. With only one player over the age of 30, youth will be seen all four quarters. Elfrid Payton versus LaMelo Ball will be the matchup of the night. Friday night, Ball became the youngest player to record a triple-double in NBA history. Ball will be an interesting assignment for Payton. Payton has been opportunistic with his defense early this year. When Elfrid Payton covered Colin Sexton two weeks ago, Payton was able to lock him down a majority of the game. Sexton was held to a season-low 35.3 shooting percentage and was held in check down the line.
While Payton hasn’t put up crazy steal numbers, he’s locking down opposing guards. Look for the rookie, Immanuel Quickley to contribute with defense on Ball. Stopping Gordon Hayward is a must for New York. The small forward is having a resurgent year in Charlotte. Hayward’s 21.4 points per game are his best since 2016. Julius Randle will need to build on his stellar start to the 2020-2021 campaign. The double-double machine Julius Randle has to have another big night so the Knicks can get out of the hive with the honey.
Knicks vs Nets (1/13)
On Wednesday the Knicks have their first encounter with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. I expect Irving to play Wednesday, and if that’s the case, this game will be a blowout. When the dynamic duo plays together, the Nets are a well-oiled machine. After praising Payton’s defense before, he’s no match for Kyrie Irving. Last year, Irving recorded 26 points, five rebounds, and two assists against the Knicks, and I expect a similar line from him. Durant has picked up where he left off in Golden State. Durant hasn’t shown any rust, and will be fresh after coming off the COVID-19 list. For New York, there are no players on their team that matchup with Brooklyn’s talented roster.
Look for the Knicks to use their new aggressive defense to try and stymie the Nets offense. Double teams will be common on Durant. Reggie Bullock and RJ Barrett could double in top of the key situations to try and force passes. As for Irving, the Knicks will be willing to let him pass the ball, rather than shoot at will and beat them that way. If the Knicks can force these two out of scoring situation, they stand a chance. Joe Harris and Jarrett Allen are the two players the Knicks want to outplay them. Brooklyn also has a very deep second rotation, New York will need an all hands on deck game on Wednesday.
Knicks vs Cavaliers (1/15)
Friday night the New York Knicks go back to Cleveland, and look to replicate earlier success. The key matchup in this game is Mitchell Robinson versus Andre Drummond. The two centers have identical games, long reach, tons of blocks and get all the rebounds. The last time these two teams tangled, New York outrebounded Cleveland, 55-43. Also in the last game, RJ Barrett struggled mightily. The Knicks need their sophomore shooting guard to perform better this time. Barrett is hot one game, then can’t hit anything the next. Look for head coach Tom Thibodeau to get Barrett involved right away. In games when Barrett scores and plays well the first quarter, the Knicks have played well. The games when he doesn’t, it bogs the whole team down at times.
As I previously mentioned, the Knicks neutralized Collin Sexton, and have to duplicate this. Sexton is averaging 25.1 this year, and is lethal on both sides of the ball. The combination of Sexton and Darius Garland, have led the Cavs to a 5-5 start, and are exceeding expectations. The key to winning this game, is keeping Drummond and Sexton in check. If these two don’t shoulder the load for Cleveland, the offense sputters. Both teams have similar depth, this means the benches will play a big role in deciding the winner. If the Knicks can have Immanuel Quickley and Kevin Knox play well, this should result in a win.
Knicks vs Celtics (1/17)
The final game of the week for the Knicks is Sunday afternoon against the Boston Celtics. I can’t lie. The ways for New York to beat Brooklyn, are the same ones to beat Boston. I actually feel less confident against Boston though. The Knicks have played very well on the road early going 3-2. I don’t think they’ll be able to compete with Boston in any way. Boston is a loaded team, and can beat you in many ways. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are lethal scorers, who will feast on the Knicks inferior defenders.
What the Knicks need to do to beat the Celtics is, get the ball to the three point line. Boston’s forwards are the better defenders on the team, look for the Knicks to capitalize on the Celtics forwards to try and gain an advantage. RJ Barrett needs to score at least 25 for the Knicks to have a shot. Similar to the Cleveland game, the bench needs to contribute in a big way against Boston. If the bench can bring the energy, the Knicks have a chance. Albeit slim, they can contend if everyone helps.
This week is a big test for the New York Knicks. Playing against two Eastern Conference favorites will show us what the Knicks are made of. Lets hope Tom Thibodeau learned from the losses to the Thunder and Nuggets, and get the Knicks back in the win column.