Preview: Knicks vs Rockets
After a grind it out win over the Hawks last night, the Knicks are rewarded with a difficult back to back challenge vs. the Rockets at home. Old friend Jeremy Lin returns to MSG for the second time since the infamous "Linsanity" stretch, coming off consecutive 30 points efforts against the Sixers and Raptors. Much of the talk over the past day has been consumed over the debate of whether or not the Knicks should have allowed Lin to walk last year, but we will save that for another day. The truth of the matter is Lin now resides in Houston, and is playing very good basketball at this point in time. He will most definitely pose a significant challenge for Knicks point guard Raymond Felton on the defensive end. Oh, and then there are those two other guys, Harden and Howard.
Dwight seems to have made a quality transition into the Rocket's game plan, and certainly has looked comfortable playing with James Harden. The Rocket's front-court duo of Asik and Dwight have to be licking their chops when they take a look at the Knicks decimated front-line. If Woodson sticks with the lineup he used last night, Dwight will be guarded by Andrea Bargnani, and Asik guarded by Carmelo Anthony. To put things into perspective, the combination of Asik and D-12 average 22 rebounds a game, compared to Anthony and Bargnani's 11. Of course the Knicks could use Kenyon Martin off the bench to add an inside presence, but on the back end of a back to back, K-Mart will be limited tonight.
What could be an option to help the Knicks cause on the defensive end? The answer is implementing a zone defense. From an individual stand-point, the Knicks cannot match-up with the balance of the Rockets lineup. A zone could be help the Knicks in a few different ways. The first being limiting dribble penetration and forcing the Rockets to knock down perimeter shots. The second is trapping and putting pressure on Jeremy Lin to eliminate offensive flow. If there is one thing we all know about Lin, it is that he is prone to the turnover. If you allow him to feel comfortable and dissect your defense, it could be a long night. But if you apply pressure and make him uncomfortable, he is extremely vulnerable to turnovers. Lastly, a zone defense will put the emphasis on team rebounding. The Knicks may not have to win the rebounding battle to win the game, but they will need to limit second chances and keep it respectable.
If the Knicks are going to have any chance of taking down the Rockets tonight, Carmelo Anthony must have a big night. This is the kind of matchup where players prove themselves to be superstars. Anthony will not only have to thrive on the offensive end, but he must fill the stat sheet to the best of his ability.
How do the Knicks win this game? They will need to control the tempo and limit turnovers on the offensive end. Much of this part will fall on the shoulder of Raymond Felton, who frankly, needs to play better. They will need to minimize second chance opportunities for the Rockets and keep Lin out of the paint where he can create for others. The Knicks will also need to shoot the ball the way they did in the first half of last night's game from behind the arc. Andrea Bargnani will need to do his best to stretch the floor and lure Howard out of the paint. If Bargnani does not knock down shots Howard is able to camp in the lane, it will be a long night for the Knicks offense.
Key Matchup: Lin vs Felton......because, why not?
Key Player: Carmelo Anthony
Prediction: Rockets: 115 - Knicks: 98