Just when we thought we were through with Carmelo Anthony, he's now back, but this time as a member of the Knicks. Not only do we see him tonight, but we have to deal with Anthony again next week when we head to New York.
Anthony has always played well against the Grizzlies, averaging 25.6 points in 25 career games. The feel now, however, is a bit different. Naturally, we've never seen Melo lined up against us as a Knick -- unlike our tough battles with the Nuggets over the years. It's also worth noting that, while some Knicks fans aren't familiar with the Memphis Grizzlies, we're playing our best basketball of the season, coming off a road win against the Mavs and a home victory over the Thunder.
And let it be known, the Grizzlies are pretty damn tough to beat at home (22-9).
It's fair to say that the Knicks are much more imposing now that they have Anthony and Chauncey Billups. But with Billups OUT tonight, missing his fifth straight game, they're going to have to find some lightning from Toney Douglas, who is a very good back-up point guard, but not nearly as imposing as Billups.
Since the deal for Melo, the Knicks are 5-3, having played some schizophrenic basketball -- beating Miami and absolutely holding down playoff teams like Atlanta, New Orleans and a good Utah team, yet losing twice to Cleveland.
The key for the Grizzlies is to impose their tough defense on the wings, with Tony Allen and Shane Battier doing their best to limit Melo's open looks. Allen has been seeing high praise for his defensive play against Kevin Durant on Monday, and while Melo may get his 25 points, if it takes him 20-plus shot attempts to get to 25 points we should be in very good shape.
Another key to victory is our interior offense. Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur will be key, offensively. The Knicks lack size and depth in the paint, and their deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball are well-documented. Kevin McHale voiced his concerns to the New York Times, saying, "My concern is will the New York Knicks be able to play the good defense they really need to in order to beat the top teams in the East."
Mike Conley is once again going to have to limit the play-making abilities of Douglas. On Monday the Knicks had a season-best 32 assists against the Jazz, without Billups, mind you. It's pretty clear that we no longer need to question whether or not this team has gelled or when they'll eventually mesh. They already have. Which means that Conley has to be on top of his game. Will Melo and Amar'e Stoudemire get their 60-combined points? Probably. But it's important that we don't allow players like Douglas or Shawne Williams or Landry Fields to get open looks. All eyes will be on Conley, once again.
Currently, we're in 8th place out West, a half game behind New Orleans for 7th and just 1.5 games behind the Nuggets for 5th. We need these wins. We need to be the Knicks, at home. Sure, I realize this isn't going to be an easy task. Yes, we're playing our best basketball of the season, but we need not forget that the Knicks are a playoff team, and despite the fact that they'll be without their starting point guard, we can't take them for granted.
PG: Mike Conley vs. Toney Douglas -- Limiting Douglas on the break is key. Also, Conley needs to make him work hard on defense. The Knicks lack of depth at point guard (Anthony Carter is solid, but defendable) helps.
SG: Sam Young vs. Landry Fields -- Fields is a more versatile two-guard. He'll be tough to guard. Fields is also one of the top rebounding shooting guards in the game. Young needs to body him and make sure to pressure him from beyond the arc.
SF: Tony Allen vs. Carmelo Anthony -- Again, Allen is going to hound Melo. Success would be allowing him to score 25 points, but make him do so in shooting the ball 20-plus times.
PF: Zach Randolph vs. Amar'e Stoudemire -- They should cancel each other's numbers out. By name, this is the marquee matchup, though I'm still looking forward to seeing Allen and Shane Battier defend Melo.
C: Marc Gasol vs. Jared Jeffries -- Without Ronny Turiaf, the Knicks are forced to start Jeffries who is nothing more than six fouls and a hustle big. He may go scoreless, but he can still make his presence known. Gasol, however, has the body and size on Jeffries. He needs to make sure he doesn't make any silly fouls on Jeffries and he needs to force Jeffries to use his six fouls early and often.
Prediction: Grizzlies 107, Knicks 102