After a five-game losing streak, the New York Knicks finally were able to get back in the win column against the Boston Celtics on Sunday. New York will look to build on that win, as they embark on their first West Coast trip of the young season.
Knicks vs Magic (1/18)
When the Knicks and Orlando Magic face off on Martin Luther King Jr Day, these two teams are just trying to keep everyone healthy. The Magic have eight players out, and the Knicks have eight that are questionable. One factor that will decide this game is, which team will be able to get the most from the bench. Since a lot of the players injured are role players, the benches will both play big minutes. The key players in this game are, Julius Randle and Nikola Vucevic. Randle has gotten off to a red hot start and is integral to the Knicks’ success. Vucevic is a must stop in this game. The Magic offense uses him, and sometimes only him. Vucevic’s 22.8 points per game and the next closest is Terrence Ross with 16.2. With Markelle Fultz‘s injury, Vucevic is the active assist leader.
For New York to beat Orlando, keeping Vucevic’s fingerprints off the game is the way to win. Look for Mitchell Robinson to trail Vucevic heavily on Monday. Against the Thunder last week, Robinson didn’t stay as close to Al Horford as he should have, and Horford torched the Knicks. If the Knicks can stop Vucevic, I like their chances.
RJ Barrett has to score at least 22 this game. In the Knicks’ five wins this season, Barrett has averaged 17.8 points, but that won’t be enough. No one on the Knicks has proven to be the clear number two option. We all assumed it would be RJ Barrett, I don’t think he’s proved that so far. Luckily for Barrett, in Monday games he averages 18.5 points, which is his second-best day of the week. If New York can force Orlando to shoot from the perimeter, they have a much better chance of winning.
Knicks vs Warriors (1/21)
On Thursday night, the Knicks take on Golden State Warriors in San Francisco. Like the game against the Magic, there is one player the Knicks need to stop. Obviously, I’m talking about Kelly Oubre. On a serious note, for the first time in many years, I feel confident about the Knicks possibly winning in Golden State. Without Klay Thompson again this season, the offense solely falls on Stephen Curry. Curry has answered that bell, and then some. Curry averages 28.4 points this season, which is third in the NBA. After Curry, there’s a steep fall-off in production. Andrew Wiggins is second on the team 17.8 points per, then Eric Paschall with 11.7. Beating the Warriors isn’t the task it used to be. Doubling Curry, especially around the three-point line will be very common this game.
When Immanuel Quickley comes into the game, he will match up with Curry and look to shut down the former MVP. Quickley is also the most important player on the Knicks bench. The spark he’s had all season, especially the past three games have been essential to the Knicks. In the past three games, Quickley has shot a better percentage each game. After shooting 10% from the field on Monday, Quickley has shot 46.7 percent, 52.9 percent, then 58.3 percent on Sunday. While on the road, and being the top option on the second unit, Immanuel Quickley could be the most important player for the Knicks against the Warriors.
Knicks vs Kings (1/22)
Following Friday night’s game against the Warriors, the Knicks take a trip down I-80 to take on the Sacramento Kings. Similar to the game against the Warriors, Friday night will all be about stopping the opposing point guard. De’Aaron Fox is having a very solid season thus far, averaging 18.8 points, 5.2 assists, and a very efficient .453 shooting percentage. Even though the Kings have a 5-8 record, a lot of players contribute. With six players averaging double-digit points, the Kings look to get as many people involved as possible. Sacramento has its own rookie point guard performing above expectations. Tyrese Haliburton is quietly excelling under Luke Walton. Haliburton averages 11.9 points, 5.6 assists, and shoots .520 from beyond the arch.
Sacramento runs a very open free-flowing offense. Transition is where they will look to beat the Knicks. If the Kings crash the boards on defense, look for them to try and get Buddy Hield the ball on the left side of the court. Hield’s more effective when shooting from there, and that will be the Kings’ best way to win. Another player the Knicks have to contain is, Harrison Barnes. The former Gold Medalist is having one of his best, and efficient seasons. The power forward from North Carolina has an Effective field goal percentage of .563 and taking almost only smart shots. Barnes going against Randle will be fun to see. Both power forwards are doing well early on and seemed to settle into their roles. I predict whichever player scores more, their team will win.
Knicks vs Trail Blazers (1/24)
When the Knicks play in Portland on Sunday night, it’ll be their third game in four nights on the West Coast trip. Beating Portland will be the hardest test for the Knicks next week. Portland has one of the best one-two combinations with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, unfortunately for the Knicks, they don’t have anyone to match up against them. Like the games against Steph Curry and De’Aaron Fox, the Knicks will put Elfrid Payton, Immanuel Quickley, and RJ Barrett on the two All-Stars. I think containing these two, won’t happen for the Knicks. Because this game is in the middle of this trip, will likely result in a loss for New York. The bench for Portland is one of the best in the NBA. Enes Kanter, Gary Trent, and Carmelo Anthony lead a second unit that scores at an impressive clip.
The former Knick, Anthony has fully embraced his bench role averaging 12 points in his twenty-four minutes. With the bench unit scoring at the rate they do, the Knicks won’t be able to compete. Tom Thibodeau may try to steal some points against Portland. What I mean by that is, Thibs may leave the starters in a little longer to try and score against Portland’s reserves.
Trail Blazers: 102
I like what I saw Sunday in Boston a lot. A game like that leads me to believe that the Knicks can hang with contending teams. The optimism for the Knicks this year is real. After this week, we can have a real gauge on if this team is for real. Let’s see which players show up, and how the coaching staff coaches up the players with a big week upcoming.