With Carmelo Anthony banged up and Amar’e Stoudemire out the next six weeks, the New York Knicks will be faced with an uphill battle to remain in the running for one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference. Monday’s game against the Golden State Warriors won’t be an easy test.
Golden State is reeling from six losses in its last eight contests, but the Warriors are still playing for improved positioning in the Western Conference playoff race. Trailing the Denver Nuggets by seven games with just 18 contests remaining on the schedule, it’s now crunch time for Stephen Curry and his Warriors.
Curry was on fire in late February, but he’s cooled off in Golden State’s last two losses, shooting just 38.5 percent from the floor in that span. With David Lee hobbled by a knee injury, Curry has to step up his game with a playoff berth now on the line. The last three seeds in the West will be a logjam down the stretch with as many as six teams vying for the final three playoff spots.
The Knicks have won six of their last eight, but losing Stoudemire will no doubt be a major obstacle to overcome. New York’s premier big man hasn’t been the dominating presence this season that we’ve seen in the past, but his 14.2 points and five rebounds per game will be hard to replace.
The two teams last faced off on February 27—a 109-105 Knicks win that saw Curry drop a season-high 54 points. If the Warriors are to rebound with a big win on their home turf, he’ll once again need a big performance.
Date and Time: Monday, March 11, at 10:30 p.m. ET
Television: MSG, CBHD
Records: New York Knicks (38-22), Golden State Warriors (35-29)
Betting Line: Unavailable as of March 10 at 8:45 a.m. ET
Injuries: David Lee (DTD, knee), Carmelo Anthony (DTD, knee), Amar’e Stoudemire (Out, knee), via ESPN
Key Storyline: A Tale of Two Weeks
The final months of the NBA season are about sustainability. While the Knicks have overcome some adversity with some crucial wins down the stretch, the Warriors have been overcome by inconsistency.
New York remains in second place in the East behind Miami (which has already clinched a playoff berth), but Golden State is now 13.5 games back in the playoff race in the West. The Warriors must find a way to start winning some tough matchups, especially with a very home-heavy schedule facing them in the final five weeks of the regular season.
Neither team is surging right now, but the Knicks are certainly holding their own. Losses to Miami and Oklahoma City in the last two weeks can’t be overlooked, but New York has managed to beat the teams it should beat in order to stay afloat in the East.
The game could be a turning point for both teams.
The Warriors and Knicks are two of the best shooting teams in the league. Golden State has made 39.5 percent of its three-point attempts this season (led by Curry’s 44.8 percent mark). The Knicks aren’t far behind, converting 37 percent from behind the arc.
With Lee dinged up and Stoudemire out, this contest could easily come down to hot hands from long range.
Key Matchup: Raymond Felton vs. Stephen Curry
Defending a pure three-point shooter isn’t easy, especially when he’s shooting almost 45 percent from behind the arc on the season.
At 6’1”, Raymond Felton has a difficult matchup against Curry, and he’ll struggle to contain the 24-year-old phenom one-on-one around the perimeter. After the monster game Curry had the last time the two teams faced off, New York will no doubt be keying in on the Warriors’ best scorer.
Curry may still do a lot of scoring, but he’s not one of the strongest defenders. Felton is adept at playing off the ball and taking advantage of his scoring opportunities, and this matchup could prove to be a high-scoring showdown.
Shooting guard J.R. Smith has been impressive of late (30 PPG in last two contests), and Curry can’t expect too much help defending Felton. Anthony may be the best player on the floor Monday night, but the outcome of this game will come down to the matchup between Felton and Curry.
X-Factor: Harrison Barnes
With Stoudemire on the shelf, New York will likely employ a lot of smaller sets. Anthony could spend considerable time playing the 4, meaning Golden State small forward Harrison Barnes has a prime opportunity to do some special things.
The 20-year-old rookie is averaging 9.1 points and four rebounds per game this season. Like many first-year players, Barnes has been inconsistent at times, but he has the potential to put up big numbers if New York can’t account for him on the defensive end of the floor.
Curry, Thompson and Barnes comprise an extremely talented trio of perimeter scorers. The Knicks can’t hope to contain all three, and with the focus likely fixed on Curry, Barnes has a chance to put up big numbers Monday night.
New York is at a big disadvantage with Stoudemire off the floor. The Knicks don’t have enough big bodies to go around, and Barnes will be the beneficiary of a defense without the depth to present him with a tough matchup. Look for the North Carolina product to play one of his best games of the season against the Knicks.
New York Knicks
PG: Raymond Felton
SG: Iman Shumpert
SF: James White
PF: Carmelo Anthony
C: Tyson Chandler
Golden State Warriors
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: David Lee
C: Festus Ezeli
Prediction: Golden State 105, New York 101
Momentum is crucial at this point in the season, but wins and losses mean nothing right now. Losing Stoudemire was a huge blow for the Knicks, and failing to replace his production will impact New York’s entire offense.
Golden State will have a big advantage on the perimeter, especially if Anthony is asked to play a more significant role inside the arc. New York simply doesn’t have enough bodies to lock up the Warriors’ perimeter scorers.
As has been the case all year, these two teams will live and die by the three-pointer in this contest. Unfortunately for the Knicks, they’ll be pitted against one of the best shooters in the league.
Smith and Anthony will lead the charge for the Knicks, but it won’t be enough to power past Curry, Thompson and Barnes. This game will be a back-and-forth affair, but the Warriors’ shooting will ultimately carry them past the Knicks at home on Monday night.