PBT’s Christmas Day preview: Don’t think of it as a Knicks game, think John Wall showcase
Christmas morning should be a time of warmth, of love, of family, presents, smiles and laughter. It should be a moment of celebration filled with the very best of things in life.
New York Knicks basketball is none of those things. Not this season.
Which is why when you tune in at noon Eastern on ESPN (as well as Comcast Sportsnet Washington) you should think of this as a John Wall showcase. See it as a chance to enjoy one of the more underrated teams in the NBA — the 19-8 Washington Wizards.
Wall has fully blossomed into one of the top five point guards in the NBA, not because his jump shot improved dramatically (it is better, but not something that inspires fear) but because he uses his shot more judiciously, picking his spots. He is taking fewer shots and setting his teammates up more. Wall is averaging 17.8 points and 10.4 rebounds a game and he still puts a lot of pressure on opposing teams because he’s so fast with the ball in transition. It’s just that on the break he’s not putting his head down and driving to the rim, he’s setting up his teammates. Plus he remains one of the best defensive point guards in the league.
Wall’s defense is part of the reason the Wizards have the fourth best defense in the NBA (and best in the Eastern Conference) allowing just 99.7 points per 100 possessions.
The Knicks on the other hand have a bottom 10 offense and defense and have lost 15 of their last 16 games. Their star player, Carmelo Anthony, has missed time with a sore knee that clearly still slows him as he tries to play through it, and he is averaging 23.7 points a game with a true shooting percentage of .540 (just above the league average).
The transition to the triangle offense has been rough — the Knicks didn’t have the personnel to run it well anyway, but the guys they do have are not buying in. Guys realize they are not long for the Knicks roster and are trying to put up numbers rather than sacrifice to play in the system. Anthony has been part of the problem — he has been his old self, over dribbling and stopping the ball movement, taking contested shots. The team’s best player is not leading by example.
And the Knicks offense is better than their defense. Wizards players are going to get wide open looks at threes if they move the ball because the Knicks rotations are almost nonexistent.
The Wizards on the other hand are sharing the ball and getting balanced scoring — Wall is averaging 17.8 per game, Bradley Beal 15.1, Marcin Gortat and Paul Pierce are at 13.1, and Rasual Butler has been a present surprise at 10.8 a game. Watch him post up, that has become a real weapon for him.
The Wizards are the better team, a team that is a real threat to make the Eastern Conference Finals — they are balanced and playing well.
Barring a Christmas miracle that is what will overwhelm the Knicks and make this likely the least interesting of the five Christmas Day NBA games.