While Carmelo Anthony (hyperextended left knee) and Raymond Felton (broken right pinkie) are out for Friday night's road game, the Kings could also be without two of their stars. Tyreke Evans has a sore left knee and DeMarcus Cousins still hasn't returned since being suspended for unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team. The Knicks went down to the wire against the 11-18 Suns on Wednesday night, so the matchup against the 9-19 Kings (starting at 10 p.m.) could be another competitive one.
Here are three main things to watch for:
1. Can the Knicks' perimeter D be better? On Wednesday night, the Knicks allowed Jared Dudley to go off for a career-high 36 points, shooting 11-for-17, including 5-for-8 from beyond the arc. New York was victimized on cross screens and got a little tangled up while switching a lot on pick-and-rolls. That led to some uncontested backdoor cuts and easy layups for the Suns. Ronnie Brewer, Steve Novak and Chris Copeland need to do a better job tonight guarding the Kings' swingmen, especially John Salmons, who's a versatile scorer and can hit the 3. He has been a Knicks killer in the past, and he's coming off 15- and 19-point performances. The Knicks need to prevent another increase.
2. Can Pablo Prigioni improve the Knicks' second-unit scoring? On Wednesday night, when Prigioni replaced Jason Kidd in the third quarter with 5:18 remaining, the Suns went on a 14-6 run to close out the period. The Knicks couldn't score during a stretch from 3:39 to 0:57. Then when Kidd returned near the start of the fourth quarter, he helped the Knicks go on an 8-2 run and they regained the lead, 84-82. Kidd has done a great job pushing the ball and making half-court plays, but Prigioni prefers to move at a slower tempo. He dribbles almost too cautiously sometimes -- his perfectionism even shows in his on-court workouts -- but he has to get in the lane more, like Kidd, to collapse the defense and, therefore, generate better passing and scoring opportunities.
3. Can Novak break out? In his last four games, the sharpshooter has made only two 3-pointers. His defense is still a work in progress, which is the reason he sometimes doesn't play as many minutes, but the Knicks need him to get going tonight. The stats don't lie. The Knicks are 10-1 this season when Novak hits at least three 3s in a game. Speaking of pace, as I mentioned above, if the Knicks can control the defensive glass and get upcourt quickly, that will allow Novak to set up for some transition 3-pointers. Against an inexperienced and poor defensive team -- the Kings are allowing a fourth-worst 101.9 points per game -- the fast-break game is the Knicks' to win tonight.
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