Orange and Blue Preview: Knicks at Pelicans (4/14/21)

RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, NY Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, NY Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /
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Tom Thibodeau, Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Rich Schultz/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports /

Knicks at Pelicans: Game Analysis/Predictions

This game, just like every other upcoming matchup, is crucial for the New York Knicks to win if they plan on avoiding the play-in tournament.

The New Orleans Pelicans should be one of the easiest opponents they face down the stretch. Naturally, the New York Knicks should feel good going against just about any team since they are the number one ranked defense in basketball.

However, this game can still be a challenging one.

The Pelicans are no slouches. I have mentioned how incredibly talented they are, despite them being 11th in the Western Conference. According to ESPN, New Orleans 7th in points per game (114.6).

They also have three brick walls in Zion Williamson, Steven Adams, and Willy Hernangomez. The Pelicans’ overwhelming size helps them be the 3rd best team in rebounds per game (46.5). Even worse for NY, NO is first in offensive rebounding.

If you have watched a Knicks game recently, they have struggled massively rebounding the ball, especially on the offensive glass. The injury to Mitchell Robinson, combined with the fact that Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson aren’t great rebounders, means that the Pelicans’ great rebounding chops could spell doom for New York.

Thankfully though, the Pelicans are one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, ranked 28th in defensive rating.

Slowing down Williamson and Ingram is a monster task, and in some ways is even an impossible one. But, if any team can do it, it’s the Knicks. The offense will have to be just as stellar as the defense, too. The Pelicans are also last in three-pointers allowed, so the Knicks have to take advantage by finding and hitting their open looks from deep if they want to keep up with The Pelicans’ offense.

Finally, New York has to solve their rebounding issue in some way. The Knicks are the 7th best rebounding team in the NBA, they need to start playing like it, even with Robinson sidelined.

I would love to see Tom Thibodeau focus on doubling Williamson in the paint. Neither Randle nor Noel will be quick enough to handle Zion on the perimeter. Doubling Zion isn’t even enough oftentimes, but Steven Adams is a non-threat away from the basket. The Knicks need to find a way to neutralize Williamson while getting a body on Adams and/or Willy Hernangomez once the shots go up to secure the boards.

I really think Thibodeau also needs to consider playing Henson or Pelle for significant minutes over Taj Gibson. While Gibson has been active on both ends all year, he is a liability against such a strong rebounding team. He is also not quick enough to potentially have to help on Williamson while also containing the Pelicans’ other big men on the glass.

Prediction: Knicks win another nail-biter, defeat New Orleans 107-105.

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