The Knicks will look to rebound from an embarrassing home defeat at the hands of the Spurs. The dismantling by the Spurs has led Mike Woodson to change his starting lineup yet again. This time it will be JR Smith starting alongside Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Andrea Bargnani, and Carmelo Anthony. This will be the Knicks 4th lineup in the first 7 games of the young season. My feeling is that you will see a steady portion of iso basketball tonight from both Smith and Anthony. This, of course, could go one of two ways. Either extremely effective, or really really ineffective. An interesting stat posted by Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal (@HerringWSJ), notes that Melo shoots 47% from the field and 40% from behind the arc playing next to JR last season. JR shot just 43% and 36% from three. Of course, this is a new season and an opportunity to right the ship.
In tonight's 8 pm tip in Atlanta, defense will need to be a focal point for the Knicks. The Hawks have scored over 100 points in every game they played this season. Raymond Felton will need to be better defensively tonight if the Knicks are going to end this trend for the Hawks. Felton will have his hands full, as he usually does, keeping Jeff Teague out of the paint and creating for others. Tony Parker put on a clinic of how easy the Knicks defense can be to dissect when Felton is beaten off the dribble. Mike Woodson also hinted that he may use some zone tonight to simplify pick and roll schemes. While it's unfortunate the team needs to play a different defense to counteract bad switches and mismatches, it could be a quality plan. JR Smith or Iman Shumpert will also be vital to the defensive effort tonight contesting the sharp-shooting Kyle Korver. Korver has made his name as a 3-point marksman, and the Knicks have not exactly been prolific guarding the 3-ball this season. It will be important, whether in zone or man, to not lose sight of Korver and keep him in front.
Then we come to the matchup of Andrea Bargnani and Al Horford. Horford is averaging just under 19 points and 10 boards a game. He was proven himself to be an elite center over the past few seasons. It will be important for Bargnani to hold him around his season averages and to not allow him to explode. Bargnani will have to prepare himself for a physical game and be ready to bang in the post with Horford, who will be featured in the Hawks offense. Mike Woodson also expects Kenyon Martin to play about 15 minutes in tonight's game.
From an offensive standpoint, Raymond Felton will be as important as ever. Without Prigioni on the floor to be the general, it will be on Felton's shoulders to run the offense and keep the ball moving. I would also like to see Felton in attack mode from the opening tip. The Knicks offense is at it's best when Felton is not settling for jumpers and is attacking the basket. When Felton can get into the paint, he opens up an array of options for the Knicks offense. He can either finish himself, or kick the ball out to an open shooter. If the Knicks are going to prevail tonight, Felton will need to step up on both sides of the ball.
Matchup to watch: Andrea Bargnani vs. Al Horford
Key Player: Raymond Felton
Prediction: Knicks 110 - Hawks 105