By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Bobcats | Madison Square Garden
When: Friday | 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (15-27): After winning five straight, the Knicks have now lost five straight as they approach the fourth game of an eight-game homestand tonight. An already depleted front court -- both Amar'e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin are out with sprained ankles -- suffered another blow with the news that Andrea Bargnani will be out indefinitely after tearing a ligament in his left elbow in a fall against the 76ers on Wednesday. The Knicks will rely on Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler to anchor them as they go back to utilizing "small" lineups that worked for them so well for them during last year's 54-win season.
Charlotte (19-25): Including their win over the Knicks 10 days ago, the Bobcats are 4-2 in their last six games. Before that, they had gone 1-8, a sign that this young group is playing hard and developing under first-year coach and former Knicks assistant, Steve Clifford. They will be without Kemba Walker tonight because of a sprained ankle, the Bronx native who has torched the Knicks for exactly 25 points in each of the previous three matchups.
The Numbers Game
Carmelo Anthony was named an All-Star starter yesterday after fan voting concluded. It is his 7th All-Star selection and he's averaged 19.7 points per game in his previous six appearances. In last year's game in Houston, he dropped 26 and pulled in 12 rebounds.
Matchup to Watch
Tyson Chandler vs. Al Jefferson
In the last matchup, Jefferson poured in 35 points on 14 for 20 shooting. With his usual array of pump fakes and footwork around the basket, he gave the Knicks trouble all night, opening things up for his teammates on the perimeter as the game wore on. Without Bargnani, Martin or Stoudemire, expect to see Chandler, the Knicks' best interior defender, matched up with Jefferson on the low block. On offense, Chandler should have an edge because of his mobility in the pick-and-roll and his ability to pull Jefferson away from the hoop with the threat of his free throw line jumper.
What to Look For
The Bobcats have managed to cobble together the NBA's 7th best defensive rating, a testament to the effort and focus they play with on that end. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, in particular, uses his length and tenacity to disrupt opposing wings and has the instincts of a savvy veteran, despite being only a second-year player. His ability to make things difficult for Anthony could determine the outcome of the game...Coach Woodson will be forced to use his small lineups, meaning more opportunities for two-point-guard (with Pablo Prigioni working his way back into the fold) and three-wing alignments during this time...Bobcats' point guard Ramon Sessions is adept at drawing fouls, so it will be key for the Knicks to keep him off the free throw line.