Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks vs. Sacramento Kings (7:30 PM ET): Preview and Prediction

Tonight, the Knicks play host to the Sacramento Kings in what will be New York’s final game before the All-Star break. Here is what I’ll be watching for:

Mike Woodson’s final game?: Last week, reports surfaced that head coach Mike Woodson is expecting to be fired prior to the All-Star break. If those reports are true, and if his assumptions are correct, then Wednesday night’s game would be Woodson’s last as the Knicks head coach.

A year removed from winning 54 games, the Atlantic Division, and a first round series, the 2013-14 season has been a disaster for the Knicks, who are currently 11 games below .500. Woodson might not be completely or even mostly at fault for his team’s woes, but it’s also possible that a change at the helm would be the much-needed spark for a locker room full of players that, at times this season, have been critical of their current head coach.

‘Melo looks to bounce back: The last time the Knicks took the floor, Carmelo Anthony struggled mightily. The All-Star was just 5-of-19 from the field for 15 points in a New York loss to Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday afternoon. Anthony, who has played exceptionally well all year (27.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game), will certainly be looking to finish the first half of the season on a high note, which could spell a long night for the Kings.

More minutes for Tyler?: In limited minutes, Jeremy Tyler quietly put together back-to-back strong performances against Denver and Oklahoma City. He scored in double digits both nights and pulled down a total of 16 rebounds–including 11 against the Nuggets–despite averaging fewer than 17 minutes of action.

At this point, Woodson doesn’t have much to lose, and for a Knicks team that has been outrebounded in each of its four losses this month, an increase in Tyler’s playing time could be helpful.

Keep it up, J.R.: After a miserable–and I do mean miserable–start to this season, it appears that the 2013-14 J.R. Smith might finally have turned the corner. Excluding the Oklahoma City game, Smith is averaging 19 points per game on 49 percent shooting since January 26. During that span, he is also making nearly 48 percent of his three-point tries.

It is, without a doubt, his best stretch of basketball on the season. Look for him to keep it up against a Kings team that recently allowed another shooting guard–Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards–to make four of his five three-point attempts en route to a 16-point night.

Prediction: New York Knicks 92, Sacramento Kings 84

It won’t be pretty, but the Kings have won only six road games in 24 tries this season, and I expect that trend to continue. The Knicks will limp into the All-Star break at 21-31, but–in the lowly Eastern Conference–that means they are still very much in the playoff hunt.

Tags: Carmelo Anthony J.R. Smith Mike Woodson New York Knicks

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