The famous Madison Square Garden has played host to greatness throughout the 20th century. In 1974, the Garden shook while 18,000 stood mesmerized, watching Frazier weave under the Ali jab for the 2nd chapter of their heralded trilogy. At the turn of the millennium, hordes from far and wide gathered to witness Michael Jackson moonwalk on the 30th anniversary of Billie Jean. But today, Knick fans come to spectate the latest shining star with a bittersweet awe. A capacity crowd will take a seat behind the humbled Spike Lee, as the coveted 7th overall pick of the 2009 draft warms up the nets before tip off.
However, the Knicks are not without their own golden child; the greatest name in the NBA belongs to 7'3 rookie, Kristaps Porzingis. "The Zinger" has become a versatile, offensive rebounding terror in the association, boasting a stature that would make even Shawn Bradley's monster in "Space Jam," piss his shorts. Kristaps has the no. 4 most popular jersey in the league, and NBA fans have affectionately invented new nicknames for him with every passing month.
"He's probably way ahead of the curve compared to when I was 20. I was scared to death out there competing against some of my heroes that first year. He's way better than I was at 20. The comparison is probably unfair to him. Every tall European now who comes over and can shoot is going to be compared to me, but he looks like he's for real. He's got a lot of ways to go, but the upside the kid has is just tremendous. He's tougher and longer than me."
"I heard he lives and breathes basketball. He stays in the gym and works hard, he doesn't let all this hype here get to his head, and you got to root for him. The sky is the limit for this kid."
- Dirk Nowitzki
After a narrow/frustrating/relieving win in Philadelphia, the Warriors arrive in Manhattan to face the revamped Knicks on the tail-end of a back-to-back endeavor.
The Good. Stephen loves the garden (30 ppg in last 8 games vs. NYK). This is the site where he recorded his career high 54 points. The late rally that Philly laid on the Warriors last night has undoubtedly put a sour aftertaste in Chef's mouth. If history serves him well, Curry should lead yet another 3pt bomb raid tonight, after going 5-11 from deep against the 76ers. In concert with his advanced age and declining speed, Jose Calderon was never a good defender in the first place. There's no way he keeps up with the MVP. If Derek Fisher decides to try Aaron Afflalo on Curry, then he has to worry about the streaking Thompson shooting over the smaller Calderon.
Steve Kerr knows the triangle offense; in turn, he knows how to plan against it. If there were any time to bet on Steve drawing up an effective stratagem, tonight would be that time. Look for the staff to win a decisive coaching duel.
Andre Iguodalais rested and Philadelphia has the worst record in the NBA. If last night weren't evidence enough of how much the team relies on Andre's defense, it should be comparatively noted this evening. The anchor has fresh legs.
*Still love the look on Draymond's face at 4:13 when Steph leaves him hanging...
The Bad. As demonstrated by teams like Denver, Golden State has trouble limiting offensive rebounds against bigger opposition.
NYK bigs average: 7'1 248 lbs.
GSW bigs average: 6'9, 242 lbs.
Lopez is a bad match up for Bogut. Robin's energized style won't allow Andrew to go comfortably at his own pace, protecting the rim. Instead, Lopez will look to thrash the ailing back of Bogut, leaving the Aussie's focus less on patrolling the paint, and more on finding Lopez early, keeping a body on him under the glass. Robin's touch around the basket has come a long way, and much of retaining a dominant pace of the game will rely on Andrew's effort.
Carmelo Anthony finally has a complementary squad since perhaps his days playing alongside Chauncey Billups. Naturally, Phil Jackson seems to have extracted Anthony's value in a way that is more conducive to winning. In their last 10 games with Carmelo, the Knicks are 7-3. Over this stretch, Melo has averaged 20 points, 6 assists, and 8 rebounds a game, while shooting a 54% TS clip.
(Carmelo Anthony over the past 10 games)
In other words, Harrison Barnes has a big challenge ahead of him, going up against a player who many considered to be the best one-on-one offensive threat in the league a couple years ago. One has to wonder if Kerr will decide to put Harrison on the less demanding Afflalo, while pitting Thompson against Melo.
The Ugly. Kristaps Porzingis vs. Draymond Green: This is what people have been waiting for, all season.
"He's very good. I've watched him play. He's proven a lot of people wrong already. He probably got booed when he got drafted and now he's what, No. 4 in jersey sales? So they love him. He's a very good player - very versatile, very skilled."
- Draymond Green
Indeed. If there were ever a chance for Draymond to prove that he can literally guard anyone in the league, he will have that opportunity tonight against an opponent who is 8 inches taller.
Kristaps Porzingis - Standing reach: 9'6''
Draymond Green - Standing reach: 8'9''
This is probably the most interesting match up in the entire NBA at the power forward spot. You have Green, an anomaly at the 4, being only 6'7, yet elite. Then you have Porzingis, who's equally unique, being the tallest power forward in the league. He would be one of the tallest centers, too...
This battle will be the headliner of the game. Both bring rare versatility, and both play with an incredible mean streak.
Steve Kerr was just a Van Gundy hair away from being the head coach in New York. Thankfully, that honor went to D-Fish. But make no mistake, Knick fans know very well that Kerr ultimately turned them down for the prettier girl at the dance. He's exactly what their franchise needed. Now, he's here. Phil will most likely greet him with a tinge of dissatisfaction when they pay each other homage today.
Last time up
Carmelo Anthony nearly recorded a triple-double, and the Knicks decisively defeated the Suns in New York. With the Knicks earning 8 steals in the first quarter, they jumped off to a big lead, and easily controlled the game. The Knicks, however, do not play the passing lanes well. They are currently ranked 30th overall, dead last in the league at 6.1 steals per game.
Prediction: The ball movement and shooting will prove to be too much for New York. Look for Curry to score 30+ points today. It will be especially interesting to see if Klay can follow up with yet another big game in the aftermath of his All-Star selection. Warriors win by 15.