The New York Knicks made good on owner James Dolan’s guarantee on Wednesday after pulling out a 95-91 victory in Atlanta. There is no time to rest for the Knicks, however, as they play host to the Houston Rockets Thursday night.
The Knicks will need to be on fire shooting the ball and will need big nights out of their role players, namely Andrea Bargnani and Pablo Prigioni, to win this game.
Dwight Howard and the Rockets are coming off a tough overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers and will be looking to bounce back here. Howard is the last person the Knicks want to see with their defensive anchor, Tyson Chandler, sidelined.
The Rockets' big man is averaging 14.9 rebounds so far this season and is going to be a nightmare for the Knicks to defend. Many people are wondering how the Knicks can guard Dwight without Tyson. The answer? Well, there isn’t one. The Knicks can’t guard Dwight.
The Knicks will need to double-team Dwight to slow him down. The problems with that are their defensive rotations and the Rockets’ ability to shoot from outside. With James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Francisco Garcia on the perimeter, the Knicks can’t afford the poor rotations we’ve seen so far this year. The Rockets have made the fourth-most shots from three this season and will be able to find some open looks from deep in this matchup.
This is why Andrea Bargnani is essential to Thursday night's game. Bargnani is a bad defender; there is no denying it. Bargnani is not a good rebounder either, though he had a season-high 11 against the Hawks. He will need to keep up the good work on the glass tonight or Dwight could take over.
One thing that Bargnani has shown in his time with the Knicks is that he hustles and works hard. Defensively, Bargnani will need that work ethic tonight to keep Dwight from dominating down low.
Likewise on offense, Bargnani will be a huge key. His ability to move around and play outside of the paint will draw Dwight away from the basket, leaving the paint open for Carmelo Anthony and others to get to the basket.
If he can hit shots like he has in the past three games, it will be a huge help to the Knicks' ability to drive to the hoop without Dwight awaiting their arrival.
Pablo Prigioni, who I think should be starting, is the other big factor in this game. Raymond Felton, who I believe Prigioni should replace, proved last night that he really can’t defend anyone. With former Knick star (for about a week) Jeremy Lin coming off back-to-back huge performances, there is no way Felton is going to slow him down.
Once Felton gets blown by a few times, the Knicks will, hopefully, have Prigioni in to defend the Rockets’ point guards. Prigioni’s defense will be extremely important for the Knicks tonight. If he can stop Houston’s guards from getting into the lane, it will be a huge help to New York’s defense.
The Hawks put up 56 points in the paint last night, a number that almost cost the Knicks. If Lin or Patrick Beverley are able get into the lane as easily as Jeff Teague did last night, it will cause the Knicks’ big men to come help, leaving Dwight Howard wide open for easy dunks or rebounds.
The Knicks will have to keep their hot shooting going tonight if they want to have any chance to win. If Carmelo can find his form from the first half last night, New York can do it.
The Knicks need Bargnani and Prigioni both to show up big tonight. There is no doubt the two of them are going to bring the hustle and passion necessary to win this game, but whether or not they can execute will be the key.
Tune in to TNT at 8 p.m. ET for this showdown between the Houston Rockets and the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.