By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Warriors | Oracle Arena
When: Sunday | 9:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (30-43): The Knicks' have gone 1-2 on this current five-game road trip, with two lopsided losses at the hands of the Suns and Lakers. Despite the hiccups, New York remains 1.5 games behind the Hawks -- losers of six straight -- for the final playoff spot in the East. Amar'e Stoudemire (19 points and six rebounds against Phoenix on Friday) questioned the Knicks' focus and Carmelo Anthony (21 and seven) lamented that the young Suns, "ran us out of the gym." With only nine games left in the regular season -- all but one against playoff teams -- New York knows it doesn't have much margin for error.
Golden State (45-27): The Warriors are locked in a battle for playoff seeding in the highly competitive Western Conference; the 6 seed entering today, they are a game behind Portland but also only two games ahead of 9th place Dallas, who is on the outside looking in. Known as an offensive juggernaut because of the sweet-shooting backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Golden State has actually been much better on defense (ranked 4th in defensive efficiency) than offense (13th). The uptick on D can be attributed to the addition of versatile wing stopper Andre Iguodala and a healthy Andrew Bogut to man the paint, but also the roster flexibility of Mark Jackson's bench. The Warriors have won nine of their last 12 games.
The Numbers Game
The Knicks have gone 7-3 over their last 10 games. The team they are chasing, the Hawks, have gone 4-6.
Matchup to Watch
Carmelo Anthony vs. Harrison Barnes
Even as he battles through the fatigue that comes from such a heavy offensive workload, Anthony continues to produce for the Knicks. The NBA's leader in minutes played (39.8 per game) has seen his efficiency slip some (45 percent from the floor over the last 10), but he's still managed to average nearly 28 points and shoot above 37 percent from three over that time. Perhaps his biggest advantage over Barnes tonight will be his strength. The Warriors' small forward has been in and out of the starting lineup this year. Barnes has all the physical tools, but looks like he's still adjusting to the speed of the NBA game and it prevents him from maximizing his gifts. He has the quickness to chase Melo around the perimeter, but will need to stay disciplined against Anthony's advanced footwork and power around the hoop.
What to Look For
The last time these two teams met, Curry and Thompson combined for 52 points and Golden State left Madison Square Garden with a 23-point win. Coach Mike Woodson said Phoenix was the more aggressive team on Friday, something the Knicks can't afford if they want to beat the Warriors tonight...Just as it was against the Suns, defending the perimeter is key to beating Golden State. Curry and Thompson are deadly and both Steve Blake and Draymond Green add valuable stretch off the bench...Coach Jackson has options with his rotation, including the ability to play small with Green, Barnes or Iguodala at power forward. How Woodson manages his lineups should be interesting to watch this evening; we could see the trio of J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr. on the court together.