When the Knicks beat the Pistons in their first matchup on Nov. 25, they had one of their best 3-point shooting nights: 17-for-33 (51.5 percent). That was sparked by the ball movement of starting point guard Raymond Felton, who finished with a game-high 10 assists.
Can Iman Shumpert, who has been getting reps at point guard in practice, establish some drive-and-kick opportunities in his season debut? The Knicks are also hoping his perimeter defense leads to some more fast-break opportunities. When that happens, they're one of the best 3-point shooting teams in transition, led by Carmelo Anthony.
Here are three other things to watch for, starting at 3 p.m. ET:
1. Can the Knicks keep the Pistons off the boards? This is Detroit's strongest quality. Fueled by Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Jason Maxiell, they're one of the best rebounding and second-chance-scoring teams in the NBA. The Pistons play big and they like to start in the post through Monroe, who's a skilled lefty and underrated passer. The Knicks will have to keep an eye out on backdoor cuts because Monroe is always looking for those.
The Knicks have been sporting a smaller front line lately, but they did a good job against a taller, interior-oriented opponent in the Hornets this past weekend. The Knicks battled on the boards and finished with 45 -- above their season average. They'll have to get physical inside once again in London.
2. Can Melo and the Knicks get off to a better first quarter? In their past seven losses, the Knicks dropped the opening period each time. Even in their win over the Hornets, they went down 29-22 early on. On offense, they weren't moving the ball well and Anthony was not presented with many open looks to pull off his quick release. In the first half, he had to grind against multiple defenders and take some difficult fallaway shots down the baseline. Overall, in the past three games, he has been way off in the first 12 minutes.
Defensively, the Knicks struggled guarding the Hornets' pick and roll. Greivis Vasquez and Eric Gordon got in the paint too easily. Shumpert should help in that regard, but his minutes will be limited to three- to four-minute stretches. So it's going to take a total team effort to make stops. Intensity and communication needs to be there at the jump.
3. Can Chris Copeland continue his hot shooting? The rookie started against the Hornets and poured in 22 points in 30 minutes. He had 11 first-quarter points -- the only Knick to really get anything going -- and he had seven key points in the final period, including a 3-pointer with 9:41 remaining to give the team a 13-point lead. His 3-point shooting, especially, will help the Knicks space the floor better, and it should free up some feeds to Tyson Chandler down low. The center hasn't hit 10 points in two straight games.
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