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New York Knicks vs. Detroit Pistons: Preview, Analysis and Predictions

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New York Knicks vs. Detroit Pistons: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
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The New York Knicks needed this.

No, not a matchup with the 14-24 Detroit Pistons (although that certainly doesn't hurt).

Rather, the stumbling Knicks needed the kind of relief offered by an overseas venture.

New York and Detroit will square off inside London's O2 Arena on Thursday night.

The trans-Atlantic voyage afforded the Knicks an unusual midseason stretch of just one game in seven nights. The Knicks haven't played since beating the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday and won't play again until Monday's home matchup with the Brooklyn Nets.

With just four wins in its past 10 games, coach Mike Woodson's team needed a little time away from both the NBA hardwood and the omnipresent New York media.

As for the Pistons, the lengthy delay between games is the last thing they wanted to see.

The surging squad has rattled off seven victories in its past 10 games, which included wins over the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks.

Pistons coach Lawrence Frank has plugged some of the defensive leaks that may have sunk any optimistic playoff dreams in Detroit. The Pistons allowed five of their first six opponents to crack the century mark, but haven't allowed a team to reach 100 points in regulation since December 11.

 

Time: Thursday, January 17, 3:30 p.m. ET

TV: NBA TV

Records: New York Knicks (24-13), Detroit Pistons (14-24)

Betting Line: Knicks -4.5 (according to Vegas Insider Consensus)

 

Injuries (via CBS Sports.com)

Knicks

Marcus Camby (foot), out

Tyson Chandler (illness), questionable

Raymond Felton (finger), out

Iman Shumpert (knee), probable

Rasheed Wallace (foot), out

 

Pistons

Rodney Stuckey (mouth), probable

Charlie Villanueva (ankle), questionable

 

Key Matchup

Jason Kidd, PG, Knicks vs. Brandon Knight, PG, Pistons

At 39 years young, Kidd has been one of the key cogs in New York's transformation from a talented group of players to a poised, championship-caliber club.

But he'll need to be more than a calming veteran presence with Felton still sidelined by a fractured pinkie and a matchup looming with the athletic Knight.

Since Felton's last action on Christmas Day, Kidd has proven his importance to this club stretches well beyond the Knicks locker room.

Immediately following Felton's departure, Kidd unleashed a vintage performance with 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds in New York's Dec. 26 win over the Phoenix Suns. In his nine games without Felton, Kidd has finished with more field-goal attempts than points just three different times.

And the veteran's displayed an uncanny control of the basketball. He understands the value of each possession, and the numbers back that up. In his past nine games, he's tallied 45 assists to just 20 turnovers.

The 21-year-old Knight may have spent some of his youth watching Kidd's Hall of Fame career unfold, but that doesn't mean the sophomore will be intimated by the matchup.

In fact, it's one he'll be looking to exploit.

Kidd's veteran savvy will afford him moments of brilliance, but don't undersell the value of Knight's young legs.

More scoring guard than a natural point, Knight will be looking to do just that on Thursday night. And with two 20-point outings in his past five games, it's something he's more than capable of doing.

He'll also be tasked with controlling the pace. The Pistons (22nd in the NBA with 95 points per game) don't have the offensive firepower to engage the Knicks (eighth with 101.5) in an up-and-down battle, even with the advantage of youth on their side.

 

X-Factors

Carmelo Anthony, SF, Knicks

The last time that Anthony stepped foot inside the O2 Arena, he helped lead Team USA to Olympic gold.

This game may not offer the same kind of civic pride with a victory, but his team needs this win just as badly.

The struggles of the Knicks have not come from a lack of production from their MVP candidate. Anthony has failed to reach the 20-point mark just once this season (on Nov. 15) and has scored at least 30 points in 14 of his first 30 games.

Anthony may draw the defensive attention of lanky (6'9") veteran Tayshaun Prince, but even premier defenders struggle to cope with the quickest first step in the NBA.

Throw in Anthony's developing post arsenal and a shockingly effective perimeter stroke (42.1 three-point percentage), and it's no wonder why he's approaching his first scoring title (second in the NBA with 29.3 points per game).

 

Greg Monroe, C, Pistons

With Chandler possibly missing the festivities and Wallace and Camby already out of the contest, the 6'11", 250-pound bruiser will be looked to early and often for the kind of reliable offense he's provided all season.

His 15.5 points per game leads all Detroit scorers, and his 9.2 rebounds per game ranks 18th in the NBA.

What make Monroe such a productive offensive presence, though, are his court vision and willing passes that keep Detroit's offense flowing despite the lack of a prototypical point guard on the roster.

If Chandler's unable to give it a go, Monroe could feast on the likes of veteran Kurt Thomas and the still recovering Amar'e Stoudemire.

Detroit will need a big outing from Monroe to hold their own against the Eastern Conference's second-best team, but he has all of the offensive weapons for just that kind of stat-sheet-stuffing effort.

 

Depth Charts

Knicks

Courtesy of ESPN.com.

 

Pistons

Courtesy of ESPN.com.

 

Prediction

Knicks 101, Pistons 94

New York has struggled on the interior without Camby and Wallace, and will face a host of problems if Chandler can't give it a go.

But they still have Anthony, J.R. Smith and a host of perimeter threats who could shoot their way to an even wider margin of victory.

But I'll call it more of a nail-biter, with Detroit's youth and athleticism affording them extra offensive possessions and enough fast-break chances to keep it close.

Moral victories are nonexistent in the NBA, but Piston fans won't be too disappointed by the outcome.

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