By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Kings | Madison Square Garden
When: Wednesday | 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (20-31): The Knicks head into their final game before the All-Star break looking to finish on a high note. Carmelo Anthony called tonight a "must win." New York last played on Sunday in Oklahoma City, a game in which Anthony struggled to get going offensively and finished with just 15 points on 19 shots. Five other Knicks stepped up to score in double figures, but they had no answer for Kevin Durant in the loss. A win tonight would make them 6-4 in their last 10 games, with a stretch of four in five nights looming right out of the break.
Sacaramento (17-34): With the worst record in the Western Conference, the Kings are bound for the lottery for the eighth year in a row. But there is reason for optimism in Sacramento. The team has played much better since trading for Rudy Gay -- particularly on offense, where they are 13th in the NBA heading into tonight. First-year coach Mike Malone knows his team must improve defensively (ranked 27th), but he has a considerable amount of young talent at his disposal, including DeMarcus Cousins, 23, who is as talented as any big man in the league; Isaiah Thomas (24) has emerged as a viable starting point guard with a player effiiciency rating (PER) of 21.1; and rookie shooting guard Ben McLemore (20) has the potential to be dynamic on the wing.
The Numbers Game
Jeremy Tyler has scored 22 points and pulled down 16 rebounds over 33 minutes in the last two games. He's made the most of his opportunities and Mike Woodson is rewarding him with more minutes. Through 16 games, his per-36 averages are now up to: 17.5 points and 11.3 rebounds, shooting 56.5 percent from the floor.
Matchup to Watch
Tyson Chandler vs. DeMarcus Cousins
Coach Herb Williams called Cousins one of the most talented big men in the NBA. He's capable of doing damage in a variety of different ways; he can score with either hand, put the ball on the floor and knock down the 15-foot jumper. Chandler gives up some strength in the matchup, but he can use his athleticism to make Cousins work for the ball. The Sacramento center can get lose focus at times, so applying consistent pressure is key in slowing him down.
What to Look For
The Knicks have had two days to "rest" since they last played, which they used to practice at MSG Training Center. So far this season, and especially since the new year, they've been able to use their precious practice time to work on things and come together as a team.. Getting back in transition and limiting turnovers will be crucial for the Knicks. The Kings like to run when they can, but will slow it down and play through Cousins in the half court. Thomas can push the tempo and shoot from three (37% this season), and he has great athletes like Gay, McLemore and former No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams to finish on the fastbreak and throw down lobs thrown anywhere near the rim... The Kings commit the most fouls of any team in the league, so New York's ability to knock down free throws -- they shoot 75 percent as a team, good for 20th in the NBA -- could be the difference.