Tonight the New York Knicks will begin their journey to hopefully reach the playoffs for the first time in six years. The Knicks will have an early, tough, test going against the San Antonio Spurs who are slated as 11 point favorites on the road at 8:30pm Eastern Time.
The Starting Lineups
San Antonio is led by the dynamic duo of DeMar Derozan and LaMarcus Aldridge along with a former first team defense award winner in Dejounte Murray. Their starting lineup likely will be rounded out with guard Derrick White and center Jakob Poeltl. This will be a defensive starting five that will rely on interior scoring a lot which may bode well for the Knicks who have a bigger team although the Knicks will be without their premier shot blocker in Mitchell Robinson. If Randle and Portis Jr. matchup against Aldridge and Poeltl, grabbing defensive boards and containing postups will be key for the Knicks. Randle has shown he will play a lot of point-forward and handle the ball a lot. He turned the ball over a bit in their last preseason game and I look forward to seeing him have some more space to operate on the perimeter with Aldridge being slow and not a defender that likes to leave the basket. Randle will have opportunities to drive to the rim from the wings and the top of the key and gain momentum in hopefully scoring at the rim, dishing to an open man, or getting Aldridge into foul trouble.
The Spurs will have lots of shooting coming off of the bench led by sharpshooters Patty Mills and Marco Bellinelli along with Rudy Gay who is known for his scoring prowess. It will be interesting to see who Fizdale starts at point guard, but matchup wise, Frank’s defense likely will be necessary off of the bench to contain their dynamic backcourt subs. With that being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ntilikina’s defense earns him the opportunity to finish the game on the floor tonight.
If RJ Barrett is matched up against Derrick White, expect a big night from him. White is a very capable defender, but Barrett would merit a 3 inch and 10 pound advantage on the smaller guard. Barrett would have the ability to slash and drive the ball into the paint where he has been very successful at finishing around the rim. Allonzo Trier is an option to start tonight alongside Barrett which would provide some more floor spacing, but could take away looks from Barrett. I would rather see Trier come off the bench with Ntilikina to add some fire power against the Spurs shooters. If Trier does start alongside Barrett, look for both of them to handle the ball a bit and facilitate.
Matchup Of The Night
A matchup of DeMar DeRozan vs. Marcus Morris would be very interesting. It would be a challenge for the gritty Morris to stay with DeRozan’s speed and ball handling. However, he is known for his tenacity and unrelenting work ethic on the defensive end of the ball and could frustrate DeRozan. Morris would also have a 2 inch advantage on him and be able to contest his shots well. His height advantage would also help him get shots off on the offensive end, while being a force on the offensive glass. If the Knicks can contain the Spurs shooting off of the bench and the Knicks’ bigs can stay out of foul trouble, the Knicks will have a very real chance at taking one on the road against a very good team to open up their season.
Keys To Winning
The keys for the Knicks to have a chance at winning tonight’s game is to contest the 3 point shot and win the battle of the boards. Rebounding will be crucial in defeating a bigger Spurs team that can crash the glass really well. Second chances for a group led by DeRozan, Aldridge, and shooters would likely result in the Spurs pulling out to a big lead in a hurry. I think talent wise the Knicks matchup well, but it will also be crucial how the point guards play. We are a few hours from tipoff and it is still unclear as to who will be starting and which guards will be getting the majority of the minutes. The Knicks offense has been lost at times this year and it is crucial to get this team into rhythm with so many new faces. Dejounte Murray is a star defender and it will be necessary for whoever is guarded by him to not turn the ball over, run the offense, and attack the paint. I would imagine Smith Jr. or Trier would have the best chance at doing that, so I would expect one of them to draw the start. However, Payton is sure handed and has gotten kudos from Fizdale on setting up the offense. Also, Ntilikina as of late has been the Knicks best point guard and has more size along with easily being the best defender of the bunch, making him a likely candidate to draw the most minutes of the point guards tonight as long as he doesn’t turn the ball over. This is going to be a great test against a well respected team to see if this Knicks team has any chance at making the playoffs. With that being said, this is the first of 82 games and this new group of players will need time to gel and Fizdale will need some time to figure out the best rotations for this Knicks team to show what they are truly capable of.