By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Jazz | Madison Square Garden
When: Saturday | 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: For a third straight game, the Knicks could be without their star. Carmelo Anthony is questionable for tonight after missing the last two-plus games with an injured right knee, so the Knicks could be facing another tough Western Conference opponent shorthanded.
They fell a half game behind the Pacers with their loss to Oklahoma City on Thursday, but the way they played gave hope to many of the players after the game. Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire were especially encouraged by the defensive effort in the one-point loss...This game will be the last at home before the team heads out on a five-game road trip to Golden State, Denver, Portland, Los Angeles (Clippers), and Utah.
Utah: The Jazz are a fascinating team, caught right there in the middle of where they are now and where they are going. They're hanging onto the last playoff spot in the West, but just a game and a half up on the lurking Lakers. They've lost five of their last six, but their last three have come by five points combined.
They have the deepest frontcourt in the league; Their top four players, by Player Efficiency Rating (PER), are Al Jefferson (20.9), Paul Millsap (20.6), Derrick Favors (17.7) and Enes Kanter (17.6) -- all 6-foot-8 and taller. Though the two veterans (Jefferson and Millsap) have contracts expiring after this year and the youngsters (Favors and Kanter) could be ready to start, the team elected not to deal any of them at the trade deadline, putting their future on hold and shifting their focus to the remainder of this season. A playoff team last year in Tyrone Corbin's first full season as coach, you can count on them to bring it every night.
Last Time Out
New York: Playing the Thunder without Anthony on Thursday, the Knicks hung in all game before losing a heartbreaker in the final moments, 95-94.
Utah: Despite the return of Jefferson, who missed the previous three games with an ankle injury, the Jazz suffered their third close loss in a row, this one to Chicago, 89-88, last night.
The Numbers Game
J.R. Smith went scoreless in the 1st quarter on Thursday against OKC before erupting for 16 points in the 2nd quarter and 13 more in the 3rd. By the final buzzer, he had a season-high 36 points.
Matchup to Watch
Amar'e Stoudemire vs. Derrick Favors
This matchup off the bench should be really fun to watch. Athletically, Favors has a lot in common with Stoudemire when he was in his third season. Favors is more of a defender and rebounder, using his strength and size to score around the rim, as evidenced by the 11 points, 10 rebounds and six(!) blocks he turned in last night against the Bulls. Amar'e has been as about as efficient as you can be recently, although he had to work for his 16 points against Serge Ibaka and OKC. Favors has similar defensive chops.
What to Look For
If Melo can't go, then Woodson could stick with the same starting lineup he's used in the last two games. That would be Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, James White, Kurt Thomas and Tyson Chandler. Even though they start, Thomas and White have played limited minutes and are even likely to be on the bench at the start the second half. Stoudemire's minutes are still capped at 30, but he and J.R. Smith, coming off of the 36-point game, will be counted on to score -- especially if Melo sits.