By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Bobcats | Time Warner Arena
When: Tuesday | 7:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (15-22): The Knicks have now won six of their last seven games, including five straight as they head to Charlotte for the second leg of the first back-to-back set this week. Things are heating up for the Orange and Blue, now in playoff position after beating the Phoenix Suns in overtime at the Garden last night. Carmelo Anthony continued his All-Star-level play, notching 29 points and 16 rebounds as the Knicks improved to 11-2 this season when he has four or more assists. With nine games to play in January's remaining 18 days, the teams seems to have found its groove at just the right time.
Charlotte (15-23): After jumping out to a surprising 7-7 start to the year, including a win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, the Bobcats have fallen back down to earth, losing eight of their last nine games. They still play defense -- ranked 8th in the NBA in points allowed per 100 possessions -- but first-year coach Steve Clifford's team places 29th in offensive efficiency coming into tonight's contest. Al Jefferson, the big free agent acquisition who missed the first meeting between these teams, is back in the fold and leads the team in player efficiency rating (PER) in 29 games played. Bronx native Kemba Walker serves as the team's sparkplug and leading scorer, averaging just under 19 points per game.
UPDATE: The Charlotte Observer reports that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, will return to the starting lineup after missing five weeks with a broken hand. Kidd-Gilchrist is still developing offensively, but brings a defensive force to the floor with his length and tenacity.
The Numbers Game
From our own Jonah Ballow:
5 straight games for the #Knicks without allowing over 96 points.— Jonah Ballow (@jonahballow) January 14, 2014
Matchup to Watch
Andrea Bargnani vs. Al Jefferson
In two nights, Bargnani faces two completely contrasting styles of opposing center. After chasing the Suns' Channing Frye around the perimeter, he'll go up against one of the most earthbound, plodding big men in the league in Jefferson. While Big Al is not fast, though, he's devastatingly effective with his repetoire of pump fakes and jab steps around the hoop. Bargnani will have to stay disciplined on defense, while using his length and shooting ability to put pressure on Jefferson when the Knicks have the ball.
What to Look For
Coach Mike Woodson said that Tyson Chandler could return to the lineup after missing the majority of the last five games with an upper respiratory infection. Amar'e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin have been sensational in Chandler's absence, but Woodson would, no doubt, welcome back his All-Star to the big man rotation...While Raymond Felton has been pressed into big minutes with Pablo Prigioni (toe) and Beno Udrih (knee) sidelined, Toure' Murry has proven capable of giving the team solid minutes as the backup point guard...Iman Shumpert has cooled off since his scoring outburst on the texas road trip, but he's picked up his production in other areas -- over the past three games, he's averaging 8.3 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 41.2% from 3 and playing standout defense.