At 6-0, the Knicks are one of the biggest surprises in the NBA.
They’re looking to continue to shock the basketball world Friday night in Memphis, where they take on the red-hot Grizzlies, winners of six straight overall and 14 in a row at home.
Here are a few things to watch during Friday’s game (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN):
SEVENTH HEAVEN? With a win in Memphis, the Knicks can tie their best start in franchise history. They last started 7-0 in the 1993-94 season en route to an NBA Finals berth.
But getting win No. 7 won’t be easy.
Memphis is coming off back-to-back wins over Miami and Oklahoma City.
The Grizzlies feature one of the toughest front lines in the NBA, with power forward Zach Randolph leading the league in rebounds per game (14) and second-chance points (6.1). Center Marc Gasol is averaging 14.1 points per game and has been extremely efficient in the post -- both as a passer and scorer.
Combine them with Rudy Gay’s efforts (20.7 ppg), and the Grizzlies certainly pose a formidable threat.
The Knicks have struggled to score inside and rebound the basketball. They rank third-worst in the NBA in points in the paint at 34 per game (the Grizzlies rank third at 46 per). New York’s also last in the NBA in rebounding rate -- a percentage of missed shots that a team rebounds. Memphis, on the other hand, is fifth in rebounding rate. So the Knicks’ front-line guys -- Tyson Chandler, Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Carmelo Anthony -- need to do a good job of boxing out, as well as get some help from the Knicks guards.
MELO’S MATCHUP? Mike Woodson has hinted Anthony will line up at power forward against the Grizzlies. If he does, that means Anthony could be guarded by a player who's significantly bigger than him for the third straight game. That has to take a physical toll on the Knicks' star.
On Tuesday, he matched up against Orlando’s Glen "Big Baby" Davis. On Thursday, in San Antonio, he was guarded by DeJuan Blair in the first half and the chiseled, 220-pound Stephen Jackson, who doesn’t outweigh Anthony but is still physically imposing.
Will Anthony have to match up against Randolph (6-9, 260 lbs.) on Friday? If not Randolph, Anthony may match up against Gay.
Either way, the Knicks' leading scorer (23.8 ppg) will be looking to bounce back on the offensive end.
Anthony scored just nine points on 3-for-12 shooting Thursday, but found other ways to impact the game (12 rebounds, 3 assists) in the Knicks’ win.
Can he get it going on offense against Memphis?
SLOW AND STEADY: The Grizzlies like to push the pace, averaging 97 possessions per 48 minutes (7th in the NBA). This leads to great opportunities in the paint (see above) and on the perimeter, where reserves Wayne Ellington (11 for 24), Jerryd Bayless (10 for 18) and Quincy Pondexter (10 for 22) have all thrived from beyond the arc.
The Knicks play much slower, ranking 26th in the NBA with 93.41 possessions per 48 minutes. So the Knicks could benefit from keeping the pace slow and keeping things in the half court, where they are scoring a league-best one point per play and have done their best work defensively.
The most interesting stats here were courtesy of the numbers gurus at ESPN Stats & Information.