San Antonio Spurs @ New York KnicksMadison Square Garden, New York City, NY
November 10, 2013, 11:00 AM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
Spurs v. Knicks should be a bigger deal than it is.
It's odd, considering that these two teams met in an NBA Finals once upon a time and that the Knicks were the squad San Antonio vanquished to capture that elusive first NBA Championship back in 1999, but for me the height of whatever "rivalry" these teams had was during the 90s, when by and large San Antonio vs. New York meant "The Admiral" vs. Patrick Ewing. They squared off 14 times between the 1989-90 and 1997-98 seasons, with Robinson enjoying the slight 8-6 edge. League Pass wasn't around back then, but at least a few of those games were nationally televised. Those games weren't quite the epic clashes that Robinson vs. Olajuwon or Robinson vs. O'Neal were, but they were just below that, and by the time their teams met for the 1999 Finals, the matchup would never be the same. By then Robinson was firmly a second-banana to Tim Duncan and Ewing missed the series with a knee injury.
The Knicks have been laughingstocks for most of the Duncan Era, and even though they've solidified themselves somewhat with the acquisitions of Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, making it back to the playoffs the past three seasons after an unfathomable six-year absence, they haven't come close to being on the Spurs level for some time. They went after LeBron James hard in 2010, struck out, and have basically been treading the waters of mediocrity since, too good for the lottery, not nearly good enough for true contention.
That being said, the last time the Spurs won in the Big Apple, three of their starters were DeJuan Blair, Richard Jefferson and Keith Bogans. It was way back in Dec. 27, 2009, when the good guys escaped with a 95-88 victory at the Madison Square Garden. Even worse, the Knicks actually swept the Spurs last year, carpet bombing them with threes in San Antonio almost a year ago to this day, Nov. 15, and then capturing the return engagement as well on Jan. 3, taking advantage of a SEGABABA for the Spurs to win easily.
There is certainly an argument for both teams coming into the game. On one hand the Knicks will be without Chandler, who suffered a fracture in his leg in a midweek game versus Charlotte when Kemba Walker slid into him. Chandler, pretty much the only defender of note on the Knicks roster, averaged 11.5 points and 13 rebounds against the Spurs last season and has been a thorn in Duncan's side throughout his career. On the other hand, the game will be a noon start for the Spurs' body clocks and they've traditionally been an awful team during morning/afternoon tilts. When you consider the strong possibility that at least some of the fellas will want to have a night out on the town in the big city, you can easily see a scenario where the Spurs won't be up for the game. Maybe Gregg Popovich will try to organize a team dinner in the slim hope that he can keep his guys from hitting the clubs. I'm not worried about Duncan or Ginobili in that regard, but pretty much everyone else.
As far as the threat the Knicks present on the floor, first and foremost certainly is Anthony, who remains one of the league's top scorers and will be a handful for Kawhi Leonard, Boris Diaw and whomever else the Spurs endeavor to put on him. With Chandler out, I'm guessing Knicks coach Mike Woodson tries to play as small as possible, trying to take advantage with Anthony as his four man.
The Knicks would be in a heap of trouble defensively with Andrea Bargnani as the lone big to defend Duncan, not to mention drives to the basket by Parker and Ginobili, but the matchups would favor them on the other end, too. Would Pop let Duncan roam out to the three-point line to defend Bargnani? Probably not, but he can't have Duncan attempt to guard Anthony either. It's almost as if the Spurs would be forced to play a pure zone out of necessity.
Bargnani is a streaky shooter to be sure, but he's coming off his best game of the season, having scored 25 points and grabbed eight boards in New York's 101-91 win at Charlotte. Neither guard Pablo Prigioni or wing Iman Shumpert are big scoring threats, but they're both good defenders with size, capable of bottling up Leonard and Danny Green in the half court. The match-up to watch will be Parker vs. Raymond Felton, a chunky dude who's given Parker problems in the past.
Where the Knicks may get a boost is from their bench -- specifically J.R. Smith, who's likely to make his season debut after serving a five-game suspension for a drug bust. We have no way of knowing if Smith, who's wasted much of his good will with the team, will come out smoking or if his game has gone to pot; my crystal ball is a bit hazy for him, and his game has always been full of highs and lows. He's a guy who'll keep firing and firing until his team is deep in the weeds and he's been known to get out of joint with the refs too. It may sound half-baked to expect him to save the Knicks so soon, but the very same fans who were ready to stone him for being so dumb will readily cheer him if he sinks a couple of threes.
The 2-3 Knicks are similar to the Spurs in that they've gotten off to a pretty good start to the season defensively, but have been sluggish on offense. They were outrebounded by Charlotte in both ends of their home-and-home, heavily so in the first game where Chandler got injured, but they did stroke twelve threes in the rematch, so maybe they're getting hot at just the wrong time as far as the Spurs are concerned. I imagine they're going to put up quite a few from downtown in this game, for better or worse, while the Spurs will look to be more aggressive in taking it to the basket.
Knicks perspective can be found here: Posting and Toasting
Game Prediction: Spurs by 11.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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