In the midst of the “madness” surrounding college basketball (and Selection Sunday), it almost seems as though the NBA is an afterthought on Sunday. With that said, there’s an interesting, quality game on display in the 3:30 time slot.
Let’s take a look at what to expect from this match-up.
New York Offense vs. Los Angeles Defense
Before we get too deep into the preview, there is a cloud looming over this match-up. Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are both listed as “questionable” for Sunday’s action, but numerous reports have the Knicks “preparing” to play without them. Their absence would significantly change things for New York (obviously) and gravely damage their chances of a road win.
If the Knicks are at full strength, they are capable of being a dynamic offensive team. Carmelo is one of the best scorers in the NBA, and he leads a top-10 offense (over 107 points per 100 possessions this season) capable of exploding. Overall, the Knicks are a “hit-or-miss” offense, thanks a league-leading total in three-point attempts, and they enter Sunday on a three-game losing streak as a result of an offensive slump.
The Clippers’ defense has been underrated this season, posting a top-10 efficiency (allowing just 100.5 points per 100) and wearing teams out with depth at times. They don’t have an elite defender anywhere, but their wing rotation is filled with quality guys (Barnes, Hill, etc.) and both Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan are capable of crazy things defensively.
Frankly, if New York is without Anthony (and Chandler), they are going to have a tough time scoring. JR Smith is coming off of a 33-point explosion on Thursday night, but he’s never been an efficient scorer, and he’s certainly not a guy you’d want as your #1 option. A lot of the offense will fall on his shoulders, but Raymond Felton would need to step up in a big way, as their normal secondary option (Amar’e Stoudemire) is absent with injury as well. With Melo in the lineup (and reasonably healthy), this match-up may be a “push”, but without him, I don’t see it for New York.
Los Angeles Offense vs. New York Defense
I can’t express how much fun it is to watch Chris Paul operate an offense. He’s a savant with the ball in his hands, and the best point guard on the planet. He anchors a top-10 offense in LA, and, along with Blake Griffin, pushes them to another level at times.
The challenge for New York will be in protecting the rim in the absence of Chandler. If he’s slowed with injury (but out there), they probably have a chance out of the fear that he would alter shots, but without their defensive back-line, LA should attack the rim at will with little resistance.
I’m curious to see how the wing rotation shakes out in this one, and while we know that Jamal Crawford will be prominently involved (facing off with his doppleganger in JR Smith, too), you never know what Del Negro will do otherwise. Blake Griffin should also have a field day throughout this one, as New York isn’t blessed with a “traditional” power forward, and I honestly think they have no answers for the athleticism of Griffin, especially if Chandler is out of the lineup.
Match-up to Watch – Raymond Felton vs. Chris Paul
This match-up lands as the “one to watch” out of necessity. We know (for a near certainty, at least) that both guys will be on the court, and if New York has any chance in a road game, they’re going to need a big game from Felton. On paper, Paul is the better player and should have the edge, but Felton is a guy who can explode from nowhere, and if he has a hot start, he could ride it to a 25-point night at any time. My money is on Paul, but that would be the case no matter what point guard he was facing off against.
With the Knicks in a tailspin, I would imagine that they would prefer to play in another venue and against another team on Sunday. Throw in the fact that their best two players are questionable (with all reports leaning negatively) and it’s a recipe for disaster. If everything comes together for New York (i.e. health for their “big two” and some quality three-point shooting), they have a chance of winning on the road, but that’s a lot to ask.
Take this time to enjoy a Chris Paul-led offense, and if the Knicks compete, that is even better. At any rate, the NBA is playing on Sunday, so don’t forget that in the midst of the madness.