7:30pm, Madison Square Garden
NBATV/WFNZ 610 AM
PROBABLE LINEUP[eztable width=”600″ colwidth=”10|295|295″ colalign=”left|center|center”] Pos.,CHARLOTTE HORNETS,NEW YORK KNICKS
PG,Kemba Walker, Shane Larkin
SG,Lance Stephenson, Iman Shumpert
PF,Marvin Williams,Quincy Acy
C,Al Jefferson,Samuel Dalembert
BREAKDOWN[eztable width=”400″ colwidth=”10|10|10″ colalign=”left|center|center”] ,CHARLOTTE HORNETS,NEW YORK KNCKS
OFF Rtg,85.6 (30th),99.2 (27th)
DEF Rtg,89.3 (2nd),110.2 (26th)
PACE,96 (19th),88.1 (30th)
Andrea Bargnani – OUT (hamstring)
Jose Calderon – OUT (calf strain)
1. MKG’s revenge. Carmelo Anthony hung a career-high 62-points last January on MKG and the then-Bobcats. Now the Hornets, and an improved MKG seek revenge. What’s the key to slow down ‘Melo tonight?
Spencer Percy (@QCHspencer): The usual when guarding ‘Melo – play-up on him defensively, take away his airspace, and limit his triple-threat position where he’s so effective at sizing up defenders.
The Triangle offense has thrown a fold into ‘Melo’s offensive game. He now has to be wary of his teammates cuts off-the-ball, and actually look to share the rock for a better look near the rim. He also is learning to operate with the ball, closer to the basket, more often. If you’re MKG, you must be physical when chasing around and defending ‘Melo without fouling. Not an easy task, but MKG is best-built for the job.
Doug Branson (@QCHdoug): It had to be a team effort. For much of the first game and key portions of the second, help has been slow to come and defenders have been slow to react to pick and roll situations. There are not enough offensive weapons on this Knicks squad to justify leaving MKG out on an island with Anthony. Everyone has to be organized and active tonight.
James Plowright (@JPlowright_NBA): With the Knicks now implementing aspects of the triangle, this means Anthony will likely take less shots this year. However, Derek Fisher has still allowed Anthony to run isolation plays, we saw this in the Knicks win over the Cavs last week. Melo is always going to score, but the key to stopping him having a firm outcome on the end of the game is limiting his outside shooting chances. In his 62 point game Melo caught fire going 6-11 from beyond the arc. It is important MKG doesn’t go under the screen, force him off the three point line and make him hit a pull up or pass it to someone else. If we remember back to last year Clifford took responsibility, he said MKG was playing him exactly how he had told him to. Surely Clifford must take a different approach this year.
2. Where’s Lance? The Lance Stephenson project is off to a very slow start in Charlotte. What’s the key to turn the ship for Lance and get this Hornets offense going?
Spencer: This is very worrisome to me. I’m not 100% convinced that Lance is healthy, but this is bad no matter how you slice it up. If Lance isn’t healthy then he’s obviously getting the nod to call his own status over Clifford. That’s not healthy. And not to mention Clifford completely went away from Lance last night in the 4th quarter in favor of Gary Neal. I would have done the same thing, but my point is this – keep your eye on Clifford and Lance’ relationship, because I have a niche that it’s gotten off to a rocky start.
Put the groin injury on-the-shelf – Lance has just been bad. He looks uncertain offensively, over-dribbling (shocker), and clearly has no idea what his job is when the ball goes into Big Al. When the Hornets actually do attempt to communicate on the offensive end, it has only turned into further confusion, and Lance could be the poster-child for this problem through two games.
Doug: Offensively Lance has to stay aggressive and not fade into the background when his first few attempts don’t go down. He has such great slashing abilities that if he puts his head down and uses screens effectively he can draw fouls in the lane. The Hornets absolutely NEED his scoring this year and I don’t think that’s a role he’s accustomed to. He can’t let his offensive struggles dictate his defense. I don’t know whether he’s frustrated or simply trying to create a big play to get out in transition and get going, either way it’s resulting in easy baskets for his man. He found out last night that it is also the easiest way to get onto Clifford’s bench.
James: I think Lance feels very uncomfortable right now, this is why when he is in the game he has been forcing his offense. However, there is no excuse for his sloppy turnovers on the fast break, he has simply made bad decisions and that is nothing to do with his groin or being new to the team. Lance has dominated the ball when in the game and not got Al the ball where he needs it. I think the key for Lance is to just try and do a little bit less and play within Clifford’s offense. No more 1 on 3 fast breaks, no more fade away jump shots.
3. Tell us the key statistical category for the Hornets tonight if they want to get a result in MSG.
Spencer: Offensive competence. Pick an offensive stat. Any stat. Doesn’t matter at-this-stage, but Charlotte has got to prove that they have actually practiced offense as a team prior to the season. Because honestly, it doesn’t look like this team has put in hardly any work with their offensive scheme.
The Hornets are dead-last in the NBA in offensive efficiency, and it’s not close. Charlotte is scoring 85.6 points/100 possessions – the next worst in the league is Philadelphia at 89.5 – Yikes.
The puzzling look that every guy off-the-ball has, minus Kemba and Jefferson, is the most shocking factor. I knew this team was going to struggle out-of-the-gates because of the lack of reps/continuity in the preseason, but I can’t say I expected it to look this bad. Everything on offense is going through Big Al right now. It’s exhausting to watch. Clifford and the Hornets have to carve out a way to create offense elsewhere, and that could very well start with Gary Neal – who’s likely been the brightest spot for Charlotte off-the-bench. Experimenting with Kemba, Lance, and Neal on-the-floor at the same time may not be a bad idea.
Doug: Rebounding. We used stingy defensive rebounding and opportunistic offensive rebounding to claw back into the Milwaukee game. Last night, we allowed too many second chances to the Grizzlies and they took advantage to the tune of 8 points. Our halfcourt offense is so woeful at this point, it’s not good enough to simply win the rebounding battle, we have to dominate it, especially against NYK’s lackluster frontcourt. Runner-up goes to NYK-assists. When you’re dealing with the triangle, that means LOTS of ball movement. If you can’t slow that down and get these Knicks players to engage in some one-on-one iso ball…watch out. Small sample size but against the Bulls they lost by 24 on 19 assists, against Cleveland they won by 5 on 30 assists (7 by J.R. Smith! The world is upside down.)
James: Points in the paint, the Knicks interior defense is woeful compared to the likes of Marc Gasol and Larry Sanders, that is unless you still believe in Samuel Dalambert as a premier NBA big, which if you do I question your sanity. The Knicks packed the paint against the Cavaliers and I expect them to do the same again after watching tape of the Hornets dreadful offensive display against Memphis. With Kemba and Lance ability to penetrate the from the perimeter and Al Jefferson’s advantage in the post, the Hornets should feast on the inside. However, which Knicks team will show up, the one that beat Cleveland at their home opener or the team that lost by 24 at home to the Bulls?
ASKING THE ENEMY
Now that the triangle is in New York, which role players (a.k.a anyone but Melo) look to benefit the most and why?
Every year since he’s been in New York we wonder if Iman Shumpert is going to finally turn the corner into a true blue starting caliber player. This should be the first time we see Shumpert asked to make decisions based on the structural integrity of the offense, rather than feel and creativity. He has been an inconsistent shooter for a lot of reasons but one thing he’s always been able to rely on is a dribble pull up off a ball reversal. He can knock it down going either way, and has enough to quickness to get plenty of separation. Shumpert is also an aggressive cutter and should be able to overwhelm his way to a few backdoor buckets every game as the team starts to figure things out.
The other guys that we hope will make bigger contributions are Jason Smith and Amar’e Stoudemire. Both guys should get plenty of chances to knock down 15-18 footers when teams sag off, and be able to bull their way in for offensive rebounding opportunities. The Knicks seem content to go big with Carmelo at the three, and these guys seem most likely to sop up minutes.
After that, continued development from Tim Hardaway Jr would be nice, but he may be the odd man out in the wing rotation because he can be a detriment to the team if he isn’t on fire offensively. Cole Aldrich is our savior at center, though, so that should tell you everything you need to know.
The Hornets just look too disoriented on the offensive end for me to believe they can win a road game right now. Knicks 95-88.