If the New York Knicks (30-15) hope to keep pace with the defending NBA champion Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference playoff race, then they must beat teams like the Detroit Pistons (18-30).
On Monday night in the Big Apple, the two East rivals will meet for the third time this season, with the Knicks having won the last two, including a matchup across the pond in London last month. While the Knicks look to position themselves for the playoffs over the second half of the season, fans can expect the Pistons will be scratching and clawing just to get in.
Here we'll get you set for Monday's regular-season tilt between the Pistons and Knicks from the city that never sleeps.
When: Monday, Feb. 4 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
Live Streaming: NBA League Pass (Paid subscription required)
Betting Line: Knicks (-10), according to Covers.com.
Injury Report (according to USA Today)
C Marcus Camby (foot), out indefinitely
PF Rasheed Wallace (foot), out until late-February
Projected Starting Lineups
Detroit Pistons (based on last game vs. Los Angeles Lakers)
PG Brandon Knight
SG Rodney Stuckey
SF Kyle Singler
PF Jason Maxiell
C Greg Monroe
New York Knicks (based on last game vs. Sacramento)
PG Jason Kidd
SG Raymond Felton
SF Iman Shumpert
C Tyson Chandler
Key Matchup: Can Detroit Slow Carmelo Anthony?
The outcome of Monday's game will hinge on whether the Detroit Pistons can slow Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, who's averaging 27.5 points per game against them.
However, it's almost a foregone conclusion that Melo will get his usual 28 or so points. But if Detroit can force him to take 20-plus shots to reach his average, then the Pistons will be in much better shape and in position to steal a road win in New York.
This season, Melo is only shooting 44.7 percent from the field, but he turns it up against the Pistons, hitting 48.6 percent from the field in two games against Detroit in 2012-13. Even more incredibly, Anthony is nailing 54 percent of his three-pointers against the Pistons this season.
There's no one player capable of stopping Melo on Monday, the Pistons will need to shine as a unit.
Players to Watch
STAT has been solid over the course of his first 15 games back in the Knicks' rotation. He has yet to start a game for New York this season, but did accomplish something no one else has in 2012-13, cashing in on 10 shots without a miss on Saturday versus the Kings (via ESPN Stats & Info):
Amar'e Stoudemire was 10-10 from the floor vs the Kings, the most FG without a miss by a player this season— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 3, 2013
Stoudemire is averaging 13.5 points per game on 58.6 percent shooting from the field so far this season. He is second on the Knicks team behind only Tyson Chandler, who leads the league shooting 68 percent from the floor.
A 10-year veteran at the power forward spot, Stoudemire continues to improve game after game.
He's scored 17 or more points in five of his last eight outings, the first of those impressive performances coming against Detroit last month.
Detroit's six-foot reserve guard Will Bynum has played some of his best basketball this season against the Knicks. Through two matchups with New York, Bynum is a combined 13-of-22 from the field with 31 points total.
Even though he only averages 8.6 points per game this season, he's nearly doubled his scoring output against the Knicks.
There's something about New York's defense that Bynum likes to take advantage of. Fans should keep an eye out for him on Monday to see whether he can continue to shoot 59 percent from the field. With Greg Monroe (11.5 PPG vs. New York) and Brandon Knight (11 PPG vs. New York) both struggling against the Knicks this season, perhaps Bynum holds the key to a Pistons' breakthrough victory.
Who ya got?
Having won four in a row and seven of their last nine games overall, one might say the Knicks are rolling right now. I certainly would, and it's why I like them in Monday's home meeting with the Pistons.
Sure, Detroit has been respectable since recovering from its 0-8 start to the season, but coming off a Sunday afternoon game with the Los Angeles Lakers in the Motor City, I expect the Pistons to be well below their physical peak.
Finally, there's the overwhelming reality that the Knicks are beating the Pistons by 18 points per game this season (111.5-93.5), and led Detroit by 20 points at halftime of their last meeting at MSG.
Knicks 112, Pistons 95
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