Here to provide the DC Council Opening Statements for Washington’s 48th game of the season at home against the New York Knicks are TAI’s Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) and guest Jim Cavan (@JPCavan) who writes about the Knicks for Knickerblogger, the ESPN TrueHoop blog.
Wizards Starters (12-35):
John Wall, Garrett Temple, Martell Webster, Nene, Emeka Okafor
(Bradley Beal is a game-time decision)
Knicks Starters (31-15):
Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler
Q #1: What have you done for me lately?
(What’s the status of the Knicks over the past week?)
@JPCavan: After a choppy, near-.500 month, the Knicks gotten back on track thanks to a five game home stand (5-0) that put them just a half game behind the Heat heading into tonight. In those five tilts, the Knicks—buoyed by Caremelo Anthony and suddenly unstoppable Amar’e Stoudemire—registered a cartoonish offensive efficiency of 122.7. The defense is still inconsistent, and Woodson’s troops can be prone to coasting for extended stretches, but all that amounts to minor quips in what’s been the Knicks’ best season in 15 years.
Q #2: Who threw out my alarm clock?
(Which player(s) are we sleeping on?)
@JPCavan: Don’t ask me where this came from, but Pablo Prigioni—the Knicks’ 35-year-old Argentine rookie—has made 14 of his last 21 3-point attempts. Oh wait, I know exactly where this came from: He’s actually shooting the ball when defenders leave him 20 feet of space. “Prigs” has never been a deadly threat from deep, and his shooting form inspires all the mechanical grace of a 12th century catapult, but teams had been sagging off so much that Woodson began demanding that he look for—and practice—his hoist. He’s also very effective in the pick-and-roll and finding open shooters off the dribble drive, though he does so more by way of craft than overwhelming speed. He might not look like much, but Pablo Prigioni is one tough Pampas gaucho.
Q #3: What game-within-the-game counts most?
(What matchup between two players or between each team in a particular statistical category is most important.)
@JPCavan: For all of Ray Felton’s stable quarterbacking on the offensive end, he has a tendency to get absolutely lit up by fast, aggressive point guards. It will be interesting to see how (or whether) Mike Woodson adjusts his switch-everywhere-all-the-time philosophy to account for Wall, who fits our much-feared bill to a T. Woodson has also been somewhat reluctant to sic Iman Shumpert—by far the Knicks’ best perimeter defender—on opposing point guards, even when they’re eating poor Raymond’s face and turning our interior D into bonemeal. Felton has to protect the ball and stay out of foul trouble if the Knicks hope to avoid yet another career outing from an opposing floor general.
Q #4: How it’s going down?
(TAI’s general key to the game.)
@rashad20: The Knicks are 10th in the league in scoring, and second in the league in 3-point percentage at 38-percent. Conversely, the Wizards are 9th in the NBA in points allowed per game (95.7—they’ve only allowed 100-plus points two times in the last 14 games), and 8th in the NBA in 3-point percentage allowed (34 percent). If the Wizards do not close out on shooters, and the Knicks heat up, the Wizards could find themselves on the wrong end of a blowout (even if Beal does return and Martell Webster has another hot shooting game). However, if the Wizards can minimize the Knicks’ 3-point shooting, and turn them into the one-man Carmelo Anthony show, the odds of them staying close and winning the game increase. Even though it was just a preseason game when these two teams met on October 11th, it is still worth mentioning that the Knicks took 33 3-point shots, and connected on 18 of them (a whopping 54.5 percent clip). Steve “Discount Double Check” Novak led they way, shooting 7-for-7.
The Spread: The Wizards are five point dogs to the Clippers; the over/under is 192 points (via USA Today).
@JPCavan: The Knicks certainly aren’t immune to letdown games, and it’s not hard to imagine the hype swirling about the recent string of victories metastisizing into upset-ripe hubris. This is a much better Wizards team than the one the ‘Bockers sleepily brushed aside at the Garden back in November, and I’m personally terrified by the (very real) possibility of John Wall throwing down a 39-12-17. That said, I think the Knicks’ depth and renewed defensive commitment will be enough to keep the ‘Zards at bay. This one’s for you, Grunfeld! Knicks 105, Wizards 95
@rashad20: Jordan Crawford is knee deep in one of the worst slumps of his career, and everyone from Coach Wittman to Clippers guard Jamal Crawford is weighing in on what he should do, and how he should handle it. I think the return of Beal (he’s a game-time decision) will spark Crawford’s competitive fire, and he will offset any big game from Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. All of John Wall’s toys will be back, and he’ll find Webster, Beal and Crawford in all the right spots, and lead the Wizards to victory—and the victory will be Grunfeld’s. Take that, Cavan! Wizards 105, Knicks 100.