By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Hornets – Madison Square Garden
When: Thursday | 12:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: It is no coincidence that the Knicks' three-game losing streak -- the first since Mike Woodson took over as coach -- has coincided with a littany of injuries and a stretch against Boston, Indiana and Chicago, three of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Coach Woodson has been forced to shuffle his lineups and as a result, the team has looked out of sorts at time on the offensive end, missing the flow that has led to the the quality looks that they have enjoyed for a bulk of the season.
New Orleans: Thanks to a brutal start to the season that included separate losing streaks of seven and 11 games, the Hornets reside in last place in the Southwest Division. But with franchise cornerstones Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon back healthy, things have begun to turn around. They come in riding a four-game winning streak, in the process becoming the first team to sweep all three Texas franchises in a three-game span since the Lakers did it in March 2009, per ESPN's Marc Stein.
Last Time Out
New York: A cold-shooting start proved too much to overcome as the Knicks dropped their third straight (and third in three games against the Bulls this season), 108-101.
New Orleans: Behind 18 points and 13 assists for point guard Greivis Vasquez, the Hornets notched their fourth consecutive victory in a 104-92 win over the Timberwolves.
The Numbers Game
Injury-plagued shooting guard Eric Gordon has only played in 14 games since being traded to New Orleans before last season, and the Hornets are 10-4 in those games. In six games this year since returning from his latest knee surgery, he is averaging 16 points a game, despite shooting 33 percent from the field and 15 percent from three.
Match-up to Watch
Jason Kidd vs. Greivis Vasquez
Without Raymond Felton in the lineup, Kidd has taken over as the starting point guard for the Knicks. In addition to the additional ball-handling responsibilities, Kidd's shift from playing the 2 has effectively forced them to table the two-point guard dynamic that had worked so well for them this season for the time being. Vasquez presents challenges as a capable floor general now empowered by having Gordon on the wing to shoulder the scoring duties. It will be crucial for Kidd to pressure Vasquez on both ends of the floor if the Knicks hope to stifle a Hornets team that is clicking on all cylinders.
What to Look For
For better or for worse, the fluid state of the Knicks' rotation has emerged as a storyline to watch. Coach Woodosn has presided over three different starting lineups in the last three games, and even if he sticks with James White as the starting shooting guard -- he chipped in 11 points and three steals in about 17 minutes against the Bulls -- roles probably remain in flux. Steve Novak pointed out that the Bulls did a good job of taking away the first action, and in oder to be successful, the Knicks will need to be able to move the ball to counter. Always a challenge when the guys are still developing chemistry playing together.