Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE
The Knicks are one of the biggest surprises of the young NBA season while the Pistons might be the biggest disappointment.
The Detroit Pistons are coming off of a win against Toronto behind strong performances from its three young building blocks while the veteran New York Knicks have lost two straight after starting the year 8-1. Of course, last season the Knicks beat the Pistons in all three meetings by an average of 24 points. And worse yet, everyone's favorite foul-mouthed former Piston, Rasheed Wallace, is questionable with a sore left foot.
Game Tips at 1 P.M. EST
Detroit Pistons: 3 - 10 (1-7 road)
New York Knicks: 8 - 3 (4-0)
The Pistons might be coming off of a victory but they had a lot of players who still are performing poorly night in and night out. And while the Knicks have lost two straight they were two stronger teams -- the Rockets and Mavericks -- and haven't lost at Madison Square Garden all year.
How have they done it so far this year? It's all about Carmelo Anthony. With Amar'e Stoudemire out with injury the Knicks have slid Anthony to starting power forward and he is taking advantage on the offensive end with perhaps his strongest season to date. And defensively, they play as a team revolving around Tyson Chandler as an anchor in the paint.
Other than Carmelo they have a roster that is comfortable being role players and they are playing their roles extremely well. Their 3-point shooters hit 3s, their defenders defend, their guards facilitate and nobody (except Anthony and maybe J.R. Smith) takes a bad shot outside of their comfort zone.
It will be intriguing to see how the Pistons respond to this unique lineup. Neither Greg Monroe nor Jason Maxiell have the size to matchup with Tyson Chandler, who makes a living converting from around the basket, and are not athletic enough defenders to keep up with Carmelo Anthony.
Obviously, I don't think that Lawrence Frank is going to trot out a different starting lineup but if the Pistons are going to have a shot in this game he is going to have to find a solution to the Carmelo Anthony problem without sacrificing what might be the strength of his team -- the duo of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond playing together.
Keys to the Game
Contain Carmelo - Carmelo Anthony is going to be the leading scorer for the Knicks but the less efficiently he performs the better shot the Pistons have. Anthony gets frustrated with pesky, physical defense and if the refs allow the Pistons to play this style they need to take advantage. But do they try to contain the Knicks by going small? It's hardly ever worked for the Pistons in the past.
BK needs to look to score - Brandon Knight has struggled this year largely because he is trying to learn to do point guard things -- good in theory but in practice it has led to a dysfunctional offense and a lot of poor decisions. The Knicks have a thin bench and its guards are on the older, slower end of the spectrum. Knight needs to try and use his speed to get in the lane and score, get fouled, or look for a dump-off opportunity if Tyson Chandler goes for the block.
Feed the Moose - I'd love to see a lot of of the Bull-Moose party tonight but with the Knicks small-ball lineup I'm afraid that I'll be disappointed. but regardless of who he plays alongside Greg Monroe needs to lead this offense in touches and shots. The Knicks are a poor rebounding team and give up a lot of buckets in the paint. Feed the Moose early and often and you'll see his stat line fill up with points,, assists and rebounds.
Questions of the Game:
Who will be in the end-of-game, crunch-time lineup for the Pistons tonight?