As they look to continue their hot start, the New York Knicks have quite the challenge on their hands tonight. In the second game of a three-game road trip, the team will head to the Lone Star State to face the dangerously experienced San Antonio Spurs.
New York has started the season 5-0 and will look to keep up its tough defensive effort against the 7-1 Spurs. However, San Antonio has continued to dazzle in regular season games, their only loss coming against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Still, this game is going to be a real barnburner as the experience factor is sure to play a key role. The Knicks have gotten off to a great start, but this group is still very much learning how to play together.
San Antonio, on the other hand, has a core group that has played together for years, winning three championships along the way.
That said, it's going to be interesting to see how much that experience plus the home-court advantage factor comes into play.
Given how both teams can go on a big run at the drop of a hat, this game is going to be intense from start to finish.
Time: Thursday, November 15th, 8:30 p.m., EST
TV: MSG, Fox Sports Southwest
Records: New York Knicks (5-0) vs. San Antonio Spurs (7-1)
Betting Line: New York (+5), San Antonio (-5), via Bovada
Injuries: Ronnie Brewer (knee), Amar'e Stoudemire (knee)
Key Storyline: Knicks Look to Stay Undefeated in Faceoff with Experienced Spurs
The Knicks didn't expect to start the season 5-0, but fate had other ideas. The team now faces its next test in a tough Spurs squad, whose core have won three championship rings together. If there's one team that can halt New York's streak, it's this one.
However, as is the case with any NBA game, it's not going to be easy for either team. The Knicks have shown incredible depth in each of their victories, not to mention played some tough defense.
The same can be said for San Antonio, but they'll face the issue that has been something of a bug-a-boo for them in recent years. As great as the team has performed during the regular season, their core group's age is starting to show. Team leader Tim Duncan is 36, whereas pesky defender and clutch shooter Manu Ginobili is 35.
Of the Knicks' starters, only Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd are over the age of 30. Though Kidd is 39, he has played phenomenally this season and has shown no signs of age whatsoever.
That said, it's all going to come down which team can play better defense. Age may or may not play a factor, but one thing is certain. Both teams want this victory, and badly.
Key Matchup: Carmelo Anthony vs. Kawhi Leonard
This is an interesting matchup as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich likes to mix and match on defense, so there's no telling who will be guarding Anthony throughout the game. It may be Boris Diaw, Manu Ginobili or maybe even Tim Duncan at some occasion.
That said, the Spurs will most likely look to their most athletic forward to try and slow down the Knicks' best scorer. Leonard doesn't have much size at 6'7", 225 pounds, but he is already starting to come into his own as a defensive forward. This season, he is averaging 9.9 points, five rebounds and two steals per game.
However, though Leonard is surely going to give Anthony a hard time throughout the game, he's only going to be able to do so much. The sad truth is that while he is indeed a talented defender, Anthony has much more experience than the former San Diego State Aztec and knows how to deal with pests.
Combine that with his natural shooting touch and ability to create instant mismatches, and his Knicks have the advantage here.
X-Factor: Tim Duncan
The key to defeating the Knicks tonight is simple: take their best defender out of the game. That means getting Tyson Chandler to the bench by any means necessary, and Tim Duncan is going to be tasked with doing that tonight.
Though Chandler is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Duncan has plenty of experience in the paint, plus he has a lot of gas left in the tank despite being 36 years old. This season, he is averaging 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. It's as though he took a drink from the Fountain of Youth.
Also, at 6'11", 255 pounds, Duncan has the height and build to match up well with Chandler, who is 7'1", 240 pounds. From the opening tip until the final buzzer, the former No. 1 pick is going to do everything he can to keep Chandler in the low post so that he can take a shot and, hopefully, draw multiple fouls.
Simply put, destroy Chandler, and destroy the Knicks' odds of winning.
They say that all good things must come to an end, and that's going to be the Knicks' undefeated status tonight. As great as the team has looked, they just don't have the same cohesiveness and experience that San Antonio has.
More importantly, the Knicks have struggled in San Antonio in recent years, losing each of their last nine games there.
Who will win?
That all being said, this game is going to be a tough defensive battle from start to finish. It has a good chance of being a low-scoring contest, though there will certainly be a few offensive outbursts at given points.
In the end, it's going to be the tougher and more experienced team that wins out. Unfortunately, that team isn't going to be the Knicks.
San Antonio Spurs 97, New York Knicks 89