No Baron Davis. Maybe Carmelo Anthony. And the Knicks are riding a three-game losing streak and they've lost nine of their last 10.
What does that mean going into Tuesday night against the Pistons? A big game is not only needed from Amare Stoudemire (like 30-plus points), but the Knicks need additional balanced scoring from the first to second unit. Without Melo, the Knicks haven't shown they can win when Stoudemire scores only around 20 points, and when there's minimal balanced scoring. Something more has to give, especially because Mike D'Antoni keeps saying that if his squad could score 15 more points, they'd be able to win games.
Maybe the Knicks won't have to do it that way since it's the lowly Pistons (4-18). They have, after all, already beat them back on Jan. 7 in Detroit, 103-80. But the past two weeks have demonstrated that the Knicks are right on par with the Pistons. As the losses have piled up, the 'Bockers have got to play bigger than ever. They are due for a blowout win. Could it happen?
Here are three things to watch for tonight at the Garden:
1.) WILL THIS BE AMARE'S BREAKOUT GAME?
Through basically the first month of the 2010-11 season, Stoudemire already had four 30-plus point games. This season? None. His season-high is only 25, which he's done twice (both times against the Bobcats, one a win and another a loss). Going up against the older and basically semi-retired Ben Wallace, STAT shouldn't have a problem scoring. He needs a big game in the biggest way possible, especially with the Knicks return to the Garden tonight in more than a week. There's not a lot of patience for the team right now, and it's up to STAT to calm everyone down a bit.
2.) TYSON CHANDLER VS. GREG MONROE
This is the key matchup for the game. With the Pistons' top playmakers out with injuries, New York natives Ben Gordon (shoulder) and Charlie Villanueva (ankle), the team has altered its perimeter-style halfcourt offense to run through second-year post player Greg Monroe. And he's stepping up to the challenge in his young career, averaging a near double-double at 15.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
Monroe, a lefty, is a silky-smooth center, who has the foot speed and diverse scoring ability to play power forward. His lefty hook shot is nearly unguardable, and he has range from 15 to 20 feet. He can also run the court well, and with guards Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight, who have the ability to push even though they play the halfcourt game, Monroe can fill in the wing and finish on the break.
Chandler will have his hands full with Monroe, who has progressed well since playing the Knicks on Jan. 7. In fact, he had a 32-point-and-16-rebound performance on Jan. 12 in a head-to-head matchup with solid defender Andrew Bogut of the Bucks. But, of course, Monroe will have his hands full with Chandler as well. They're both active centers and Chandler, with his good hands and ability to roll to the basket, can turn the Garden tonight into Lob City East.
3.) MORE REPS FOR LIN?
After Tuesday's practice, D'Antoni said Iman Shumpert, who he made a bench player for the first time since Jan. 6, is really more of a two and three who would develop into a combo guard. With that said, Jeremy Lin has become more of a focus. On Saturday against Houston, he scored nine points and dished out six assists in only 20 minutes.
Could he steal more minutes at the one from Shumpert, Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby tonight? It's very likely.
"He shows he can run a pick-and-roll and he's got some instincts of a point guard," D'Antoni said, "and maybe we'll look at that a little bit more and see where we're going because that's what we need."
With Davis and Anthony (potentially) sidelined, anything is possible right now. D'Antoni is searching for the best answer.
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