Late preview, due to a crazy sleep-deprived newborn and too-late Christmas shopping. Here’s a stats-lite crack at it…
The Knicks have what would appear to be an inflated record. My reasons for thinking this? They play in the Eastern Conference. They score the 5th most points per game in the league, but they take (and make) the most 3s in the league — shooting the 3rd best clip of the league while doing it (40%). They are the 3rd worst rebounding team in the league. They have the 3rd lowest rate of assisted baskets this season because they play isolation basketball.
The Knicks are the anti-Wolves. They are the reason people who like basketball say they don’t like the NBA and the reason people who don’t like basketball get excited about it — 3s and dunks. I’m not a fan.
Knicks probable starting lineup:
PG Jason Kidd
SG Raymond Felton
SF Ronnie Brewer
PF Carmelo Anthony
C Tyson Chandler
Like the Heat, the Knicks play a “small” lineup, running their offenses through their star at power forward instead of their usual small forward spot. This perimeter attack means driving and passing lanes for Miami. With New York it means isolations stepping into 3 point shots. Anthony, Felton and Kidd all attempt over 4 3s a game. JR Smith and Steve Novak both come off the bench and do the same — all at a ridiculous (unsustainable) clip. This is an outside-in offense.
Also like the Heat (and Boston), the Knicks do not rebound the ball particularly well. The old man trio of Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby come off the bench to back up Chandler. Woodson ruled Amar’e Stoudemire’s return a no-go yesterday. So look to see the more than one of these senior citizens make an appearance Sunday.
Former D-Leaguer, Chris Copeland has been a nice surprise. The rookie stepped in while Anthony sat with a sprained ankle in a loss against Houston and scored 29 points on 11-19 shooting with 5 rebounds.
Wolves probable starting lineup:
PG Luke Ridnour
SG Alexey Shved
SF Andrei Kirilenko
Kevin Love Derrick Williams
C Nikola Pekovic
It would be interesting to see Rick Adelman go small himself, and play AK at the 4 against ‘Melo. But who would he slide in the backcourt to play alongside Luke and Shved? This would be an excellent game for Ricky Rubio to return to the starting lineup, if only it were a week and a half from now. Ricky’s looked every bit like a point guard returning from major surgery since his debut against Dallas a week ago.
If the Wolves do not go small, they should have quite an advantage inside, and it will be interesting to see if they move the ball as well without Love in the lineup as they did in their win against Oklahoma City.
After not getting the starting nod in Love’s last absence from the starting lineup, Williams had an excellent effort. Since then, his minutes have been spotty, to put it mildly. Williams or Dante Cunningham will have an excellent opportunity against Ronnie Brewer, regardless of who gets the starting turn.
Matchups will be interesting all night as these two teams are opposites in most regards. Who picks up JR Smith in the second unit? How does JJ Barea follow up his heroic 4th quarter performance against the Thunder? Can AK do to ‘Melo what he did to Kevin Durant? Can Pek carry the Wolves to victory? A Love-less Wolves squad will be underdogs against the surprise contenders, but if they can withstand a barrage of 3s, they could hold more than their own.