New York Knicks: The Keys to Victory in December
The New York Knicks are cruising right now with a record of 17-5. They are sitting on top of the Eastern Conference. Everything seems to be clicking and Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert aren’t even back on the court yet.
The remainder of the season is a mix of easy wins and tough games.
The Knicks first play the 7-15 Sacramento Kings followed by the Chicago Bulls, who beat them the last time they played. It’s not impossible—but it is improbable—for the Knicks to walk away with a victory in each of these games.
Four of the seven games—and all the ones against difficult opponents—are at home. The Knicks are the last remaining team undefeated at home and because the fans are so into it, the players feel as if they’ve got a sixth man on the court.
But these opponents are also teams that have beaten the Knicks before. Houston has beaten the Knicks. Brooklyn has beaten the Knicks. Chicago has beaten the Knicks.
There’s a key to each game that the Knicks must use in order for the them to win all four at home and three away. Click on through to read the rest.
Jacob is a big basketball fan and tries to watch as many games as he can. He is the co-founder of Curave, a morning NBA newsletter.
Houston Rockets: December 17
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
The last time the New York Knicks played the Houston Rockets they lost 131-103. The Knicks got frustrated and lost because their defense became very lazy. It’s unexpected from a veteran team, but even the best of teams get frustrated.
The key to that game for the Rockets was Chandler Parsons. He shot 13-17 and scored 31 points. What’s most frustrating for the Knicks is that his season average is only 15 points. If the Knicks can hold him to his season average, their chances greatly approve in beating the Rockets—especially because the Rockets are only .500.
But there’s one small detail hanging over this game: Will Carmelo Anthony be back?
Brooklyn Nets: December 19
This is a repeat of the last two games that the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets played. In the first one Carmelo Anthony forced a shot and missed and the team went on to lose in overtime. The second time they met, the Knicks came out tremendously stagnant and fought back to beat the Nets, riding Melo’s 45 points.
This time, though, the Knicks are at home. Whereas Barclay’s Center is comprised of about 60% Nets fans and 40% Knicks fans, the Garden will be packed with Knicks fans. More importantly, playing at home has given the Knicks a tremendous advantage night in and night out.
The key to winning this game is Tyson Chandler. Chandler will need to dominate Brook Lopez and prove why he is the Defensive Player of the Year. If Chandler can keep Lopez to fewer points, the Knicks have a better chance of winning.
Most importantly, the Knicks need to start the first quarter the way they did at the Los Angeles Lakers game: Crushing. Otherwise, the Knicks will be fighting to gain back what they lost rather than padding their lead.
Chicago Bulls: December 21
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Chicago Bulls are coming to town and this is going to be a close, hard fought game. The Bulls are like the New York Knicks in that even when they’re down their star player, they still hustle hard and fight even harder.
During their first game, Marco Belinelli lit the Knicks up from downtown for a total of 22 points. This was problematic because Belinelli is only averaging 9 points a game, so for him to go off for 22 obviously gave the Bulls the push they needed for the win.
To win this game at home, the Knicks will need to hold Belinelli to his average and continue fighting for rebounds. More importantly, the Knicks are going to need to limit their turnovers. In the first game they gave 15 away—far more than they typically do.
In the end, if the Knicks have Carmelo Anthony they’ll have the one thing they didn’t have before: A star closer. Had they had Melo against the Bulls last time the Knicks probably would have won, therefore, if Anthony comes back from his injury in time, the Knicks should be fine.
Minnesota Timberwolves: December 23
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
The Minnesota Timberwolves are going to be a tricky team for the New York Knicks for one simple reason: Ricky Rubio. On Saturday night, he came back to help the Timberwolves against the Dallas Mavericks and had nine assists in just 18 minutes. The man just finds a way to get the ball into the hands of his teammates for baskets.
More importantly, Kevin Love will most likely be back and he is a fantastic basketball player. He can stretch the floor which is useful for allowing Rubio to get to the basket and make the easy assist. The Timberwolves are 12-9 and could be even better when the Knicks play them.
This will be the last home game for the Knicks, but if they can defend against Rubio and Love, they should be able to scrape by with a win. However, if they let either—or worse, both—of those players get hot, it could turn into a disappointing loss.
Los Angeles Lakers: December 25
Rob Carr/Getty Images
This is going to be a tricky game for the New York Knicks and I predict a loss. Pau Gasol and Steve Nash will both be back, it’s in Los Angeles, and L.A. Lakers fans are some of the best. But this game could be where Amar'e Stoudemire makes his debut.
There are three ways that a loss can be prevented. First and foremost, the Knicks need to force turnovers, a difficult task because Steve Nash will be handling the ball. But, if they can force turnovers, they’ll be in a good position.
Secondly, the Knicks need to get Stoudemire working with the second unit. If he is putting up points against the Lakers’ weak bench, there’s a good chance the Knicks could walk away with the win.
Finally, the Knicks need to keep some of the tempo up. Pau Gasol labors running up and down the court. By forcing some of the tempo, they’ll be able to catch the Lakers in transitional defense, which is one of that team’s big weaknesses.
In the end, going into the Staples Center is tough for any team. However, the Knicks are a very solid team and could take this win.
Phoenix Suns: December 26
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The Phoenix Suns have notched two respectable wins: One against the Memphis Grizzlies and another against the Utah Jazz. Both of these teams are .500 or better, so for the Suns to come and take those wins is important.
The Knicks beat the Suns the last time—without Jason Kidd—but only barely. J.R. Smith was cold that day and Rasheed “Ball Don’t Lie” Wallace got ejected in under two minutes.
This time the Knicks should have Jason Kidd and Amar’e Stoudemire, so a win is very possible. However, should the Knicks come in expecting this win—rather than fighting for it—they’ll lose. The Suns are a talented team when they play together, and after the past few games, they are obviously gelling.
Sacramento Kings: December 28
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The Sacramento Kings are a team that has a lot of pieces that should be able to put up a lot of points. But when they play together they’re unable to score high marks in any offensive category. Because of this, there really is no single threat on the Kings that the New York Knicks have to worry about.
Despite that, though, the Knicks could lose this last game in December. The Knicks’ greatest weakness is complacency. The Association sees this all the time. The Miami Heat lost to the Washington Wizards because they came in unmotivated. If the Knicks do the same thing against the Kings—especially away from home—then they could lose.
However, should the Knicks come in fighting hard, they’ll easily walk away with this win. Separately, this would be a good test on Amar'e Stoudemire’s and Carmelo Anthony’s ability to play together.