New York Knicks (8-24, 4-12 Away) vs. Washington Wizards (9-21, 4-7 Home)
Date: December 28, 2019
Location: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C
Tip-Off: 8:00pm EST
Line: Wizards +2
Season Series: Wizards lead 1-0
New York Knicks
The premiere tenants of Madison Square Garden have certainly had a rough going this season, as most expected them to. After a win against their city rival Brooklyn Nets, the Knicks come into D.C standing at 8-24.
New York faced these same Wizards on Monday night, where they fell 121-115 as Beal scored 30 points. Despite their shaky overall record, New York has played solid basketball of late, going 4-4 in their last 8 games. We will see if they can improve to 5-4 in their last 9 games and get their 5th win on the road tonight.
The Wizards offense has been humming along efficiently this season, and the Knicks will have to keep up if they want the win. New York comes into this match-up averaging just 103.2 PPG, only 30th in the league. Ball movement also seems to be a rarity. They rank 29th in the league with just 20.8 assists per game.
Rebounding, however, has been a strong suit for New York. They are in the Top 15 in the league, averaging 45.9 RPG. The Wizards should have plenty of opportunities to get their offense going as the orange and blue allow 111.8 PPG.
The corner-stone of the New York offense this season has been Marcus Morris. The former Boston Celtic is averaging 18.6 PPG, which leads the team. Morris has been on quite a tear in his last 9 games, averaging 19.2 points to go along with a solid 37.7% from 3-point range. For the season, he is shooting a blistering 46.1% from long-range.
New York will look to rely on the Philly native on offense as they have done the past couple of games.
Rookie RJ Barrett from Duke was seen as a dark-horse for ROTY. Yet, the former Blue Devil still continues to search for an offensive rhythm almost 3 months into the season. While he is averaging a respectable 13.7 PPG, these points have been incredibly hard to come by.
The Toronto native is just 38.9% from the field, an ice-cold 30.8% from long-range, and a very poor 54.9% from the free-throw line. Barrett did, however, have a solid game against the Wizards on Monday. He went for 18 points which included shooting 50% from three and 53.3% from the field.
Perhaps the former Duke star can continue his good play against Washington and propel himself to better shooting in the future.
The dreaded injury bug seems to have captured the Wizards again. Washington has seen some of its key players go down in recent games. On Thursday, in a blowout loss against the Pistons, Beal left the game early with a lower leg injury and is now listed as day to day. As a result, he is Questionable for tonight’s game against New York.
Additionally, sharp-shooter Davis Bertans (Quadriceps), Thomas Bryant (Foot) and Rui Hachmiura (Groin) are all listed as OUT, and will most likely remain in that category for a few more games.
Washington had a strong win against these same Knicks on Monday at the Garden, but was then routed by Detroit the following game. Due to that, the Wizards find themselves at 9-21 as they begin a 6-game home-stand. This will be a good chance for the Wizards to get over .500 for their home record, which currently stands at 4-7.
With the season about to make the turn into the new year, the Wizards still find themselves in a zero sum game regarding their offense and defense. While they rank 3rd best in the NBA with 117.0 PPG, they are also the worst in points allowed with 122.0.
Unlike the Knicks, Washington has made sure to make that extra pass to obtain a more efficient shot. As a result, this has produced a high-number of assists per game with 27.0, good for 2nd in the league.
After seeing some of their key big men go down with injuries, the Wizards have continued to struggle on the boards. They come into tonight’s game with just 41.7 RPG, 30th in the NBA.
With John Wall side-lined for the entire season, the spotlight has been on Bradley Beal from the start, and he has delivered. Beal comes into the game averaging 27.8 points, 4.8 RPG and 6.7 APG. The St. Louis native has also shot a respectable 43.6% from the field but has been very poor from long-range, currently shooting 31.7%.
For his career, Beal is 37.9% from three so this has been quite a significant drop in efficiency from downtown.
All eyes will be on the starting lineup announcement to see if Washington’s All-Star can give it a go tonight. If not, players like Ish Smith will have to step up and try to guide a severely undermanned D.C. squad to a win.
Injuries are a part of any sport. When they do occur, teams must manage to cope with them and scratch out some wins. The Wizards, unfortunately, have experienced more than a normal share of injuries. Any team with such a high number will be hard-pressed to win.
The key to tonight’s game will be Bradley Beal’s availability. If he does go, I expect it be a back and forth game with the Wizards pulling away late. If he does not play, I think New York will overcome this short-handed Washington squad.
While I hope the former Florida Gator is able to lace it up tonight, I am doubtful this will happen. Expect the Knicks to take control late and put the game away in the 4th.