It is game day for the New York Knicks as they prepare to take on the Boston Celtics in the season opener at 7:30 PM. However, the team expects to be without center Nerlens Noel, who signed a three-year, $27 million deal this off-season to provide insurance for Mitchell Robinson, who is coming off a fractured foot from last year.
With Noel expected to miss the game, the expectation was that veteran Taj Gibson would start in his place, as Robinson only experienced one preseason game to get his feet underneath him. Nonetheless, head coach Tom Thibodeau presented the idea that Mitch could start ahead of Gibson after impressing in his first action.
â€œIâ€™m not sure yet, I want to see where Mitch is and hopefully Mitch will be ready and Taj is always ready,â€™â€™ Thibodeau said. â€œWhatever we ask of him â€” to start or come off the bench or be situational. Thatâ€™s the great value in Taj. Mitch is really coming on, so weâ€™re very pleased with his progress.â€
In Robinson’s first preseason outing, he played in 27 minutes, scoring six points and picking up nine rebounds. It will take him a bit of time to recover his stamina, but the old Mitch is undoubtedly there with added muscle mass, presenting a fantastic option in the lob game.
3 keys to victory for the Knicks
1.) Limit Jayson Tatum
First thing is first, stopping Jayson Tatum is essential for the Knicks if they want to extract a victory to open the year. Tatum has made two consecutive All-Star appearances, posting 26.4 points, 4.3 assists, 7.4 rebounds, and shooting nearly 39% from three-point range last season. Heâ€™s a bonafide superstar, and if the Knicks can throw him off his game early on, they can pull away with a nice cushion.
Featuring one of the league’s best defenses last year, if they can replicate that standard and efficiency, it will be difficult for teams to take down New York, given their offensive additions this off-season.
2.) Shoot over 39% from 3-PT range
When the Knicks are shooting well, they are a tough team to beat. The Knicks ranked third last season in three-point percentage at 39.2 but landed at 27th in attempts with 30 per game.
Thibodeau is keen on improving their attempts but not taking overzealous shots with low-efficiency rates. He wants to get good looks from specific spots on the court, specifically the corner for RJ Barrett, and allow Kemba and Fournier to create opportunities on their own.
If they can come out shooting well and connecting on the three-ball, the Knicks will have a massive advantage in earning their first victory of the season.
3.) Limit turnovers in critical moments
Basketball is a game of momentum, and key turnovers can be the difference between winning and losing games. For the Brooklyn Nets, that ended up being a significant factor in their defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night. James Harden turned the ball over four times, including late in the game when they had an opportunity to make a come-back down 10 points with about eight minutes left.
Julius Randle has had issues in that category, turning the ball over 3.4 times last season. However, the first time All-Star worked diligently on his handling this off-season, hopefully allowing him to cut down on the turnovers and give his team more opportunities to score and maintain momentum.