The New York Knicks will play their final game before Christmas and first of Hannukah, hosting the Washington Wizards at home on Monday, Dec. 23. Who are the players to watch?
On Monday, Dec. 23, the New York Knicks will host the Washington Wizards, before taking the next 48 hours off for the holidays. A home game at Madison Square Garden, it will take the team into its final stretch of 2019.
With this Eastern Conference matchup ahead, who are the players to watch from both sides? Let’s take a look:
Don’t look now, but Kevin Knox is emerging as a defensive threat after accepting ex-head coach David Fizdale’s challenge. Since Dec. 1 he has 11 blocks, with just four blocks for the entire season beforehand. An incredible defensive turnaround, it no longer has Knox as a potential “DNP-CD” candidate, but someone to turn towards as a stopper. Who would have guessed that three weeks ago?
The second-year forward’s scoring has come around, too, with double-digit point totals in each of his last four games (10, 17, 10, 19). He did it on 52.3 percent shooting and 40.9 percent on 3-pointers, as well, inspiring some confidence for growth in both aspects of the game.
Can Knox have another encore against Washington? This is a potent offensive team that may not provide him the defensive opportunities, but the scoring could arrive in bunches. Look for another productive night.
Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr.
Both of the New York Knicks’ backup point guards are bundled here, as Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. have taken a backseat for Elfrid Payton, who returned to the starting lineup Saturday after nearly two months.
Ntilikina and Smith Jr. did not total more than 11 minutes per game each, signaling their status behind the player who’s pushed the ball and contributed to an improved offense. It’s left both third-year guards behind, including the Frenchman, who had played well in Payton’s absence.
It’s no longer Fizdale constructing these lineups, so Mike Miller‘s trends with rotations will be watched moving forward. This starts with the follow-up game to Payton’s 10-assist night, and if Ntilikina and Smith Jr. are that far behind in playing time.
The Wizards are decimated by injuries or suspensions; Davis Bertans, Isaiah Thomas, Thomas Bryant, Moe Wagner and Rui Hachimura each have a reason to sit out, leaving Bradley Beal on an island against the Knicks. Look for him to take as many shots as possible.