The New York Knicks really took it on the chin the other night when they play the San Antonio Spurs, but on an overall basis, this season has been a happy one, as a franchise that didn't have a whole lot of Hope under previous regimes is now making a lot of progress under first-year coach Tom Thibodeau, who's been a proven NBA winner.
On Thursday night, they will attempt to go into the All-Star break with a record over the .500 mark as they play host to the Detroit Pistons at Madison Square Garden.
Game time is 7:35 p.m. Eastern time, and if you are signed up with BetAnySports, you can get reduced juice for a better deal on the odds, and then after the game begins, you can make real-time wagers throughout, using the state-of-the-art technology available through Sports Betting Prime.
DETROIT PISTONS at NEW YORK KNICKS, 7:35 p.m. ET
NBA Betting Odds: Knicks - 7.5, Total 206.5
Yes, it was kind of nightmarish for the Knicks on Tuesday night. Things just didn't start out well. Derrick Rose, who had taking over the starting point guard position with Elfrid Payton's injury, had to sit out the game because of a Covid-19 test he took.
Then there was a strange decision on the part of Thibodeau to start Frank Ntilikina at the point. We say "strange" because Ntilikina had not played in a game since December.
We can't say that it was a tragic move, because Ntilikina actually put forth a pretty good effort, with 13 points. But since he hasn't played all that much, the offense was not necessarily in sync, and indeed he went through the game without an assist. So despite 26 points off the bench from another point guard, rookie Immanuel Quickley, the Knicks were on the short end of a 119 - 93 score.
Maybe the team was just flat, but they allowed San Antonio, which is not known as a long range shooting team, to hit seven triples in a decisive third quarter in which the Spurs had a 36 - 21 advantage. Let's keep in mind that the Knicks lead the NBA in three-point shooting defense, so the whole thing was doubly curious.
But, with an 18 - 18 record, this team has exceeded the expectations of many observers around the NBA, and perhaps even themselves. Julius Randle, who has always been a pretty good producer, feels more comfortable than he has ever been, and Thibodeau is himself comfortable allowing the offense, or a large part of it, to run through him. As a result, Randle will be playing in his first All-Star game on Sunday.
Rose will never regain the same form he had when he won the MVP award with Chicago, but he's a critical addition, because as he played under Thibodeau with the Bulls and with the Minnesota Timberwolves, so he knows the system and he knows exactly what Thibodeau expects out of him. And because the Knicks weren't really all that settled at the point, considerable playing time was left open for him.
It looks like that coronavirus test came up inconclusive. That indeed prevented Rose from playing on Tuesday. There was hope that he could get the okay to play on Thursday night, but that didn't happen, and he is scratched. That wil affect the flow of this offense again.
Why Thibodeau had kept Ntilikina completely out of the rotation for such a long time it's kind of a mystery. Maybe he just couldn't fit in with the offense, but he has been known as someone who can be a pesky defender, and defense is at the center of this team's approach. Now that he got a little playing time, he might not be sequestered on the bench. Actually, that appears to be right where Austin Rivers is going to stay for a while. He has found himself in Thibodeau's doghouse, and we wonder whether, with the trade deadline approaching, he might be attractive bait, perhaps to a team like his father's Philadelphia 76ers.
Detroit is playing with a rather limited cast at the moment, which made their 129 - 105 route of Toronto last night so interesting. But we're convinced that is the exception, rather than the rule. They are missing Jerami Grant, who is by far their top point producer. And what's interesting here is that they are playing Dennis Smith Jr., a washout with the Knicks, at the point. His former teammates are very aware of what he can and cannot do.
What Thibodeau has probably done is get this team's attention in no uncertain terms, after that very flat performance, and we are pretty confident that we'll get something much more intense out of his team. Of course, that means defense, and contesting those outside shots. In this particular instance, that translates to an UNDER.
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