The New Orleans Pelicans (13-21) host the New York Knicks (16-15) Friday night in the Smoothie King Center. The game can be seen on Fox Sports New Orleans (FSNO) or Madison Square Garden Network (MSG) starting at 7pm CST. Also, WRNO 99.5FM will broadcast the proceedings over the airwaves.
Through my eyes, the Knicks have been one of the good early surprises in the Eastern Conference, currently sitting fifth in the standings. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one chuckling at the comments made by Derrick Rose over the summer when he compared this New York roster to a super team. Yet, earlier this month, the Knicks had the third best record in the East, recording 14 wins in their first 24 games.
My main source of doubt stemmed from the new additions, not believing Rose and Joakim Noah would contribute as often or as positively as they have when recognizing their previous injury histories in Chicago. Although his MVP days remain in the rearview mirror, Rose has filled in admirably at point guard. When considering that either Raymond Felton or Jeremy Lin under Mike D’Antoni were the best New Yorkers have enjoyed in quite some time, one shouldn’t overlook the stability that Rose has brought to the position. After all, he is posting the best +/- among the regulars.
That said, the Knicks still revolve around Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony. Both players are averaging over 20 points per game and are responsible for the team’s attack. However, many have already remarked that the 21-year-old needs to be given the full reins, with the more inefficient Anthony taking somewhat of a backseat.
Either way, a Rose, Anthony and Porzingis trio will pose a significant threat to the Pelicans’ defense. Can Jrue Holiday, Solomon Hill and, I’m assuming, Dante Cunningham, limit the three-headed beast? Moreover, Anthony is coming off a game in which he was ejected for the following foul on Thabo Sefolosha.
Carmelo Anthony was ejected in the 2nd quarter tonight for this shot to the face of Thabo Sefolosha https://t.co/YG0oMbLwke— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) December 29, 2016
Perhaps Carmelo will be looking to make some sort of statement in New Orleans, considering his latest ejection marked the 10th of his career and was arguably undeserved, but if the Pelicans want to continue a march towards respectability, they need to close out the 5-game home stand with a victory — 6 of the next 7 games will be on the road.
What to Watch
Control the glass at the outset. DeAndre Jordan went for a season-high 25 rebounds against Anthony Davis on Wednesday and the Clippers tallied 17 second chance points in all in the first half. By the numbers, Noah is a stronger offensive rebounder than Jordan so Davis is going to have to be mentally prepared at tip-off for what will be another tidal wave of arms crashing the glass hard. As a team, the Knicks are 2nd in the NBA with an average of 15.8 second chance points a game. If the Pelicans start the game with another small lineup — the 8th time without Alexis Ajinca or Omer Asik during the 2016-17 campaign — gang rebounding by the entire team will be a must.
Mark the right guys from the perimeter. Let Rose and Brandon Jennings shoot from the perimeter, but stay in very close proximity with Porzingis and Courtney Lee. Melo is a threat, but he hasn’t been as hot as the previously mentioned two players over the last 10 games.