The New York Knicks (2-4) will face another elite team tonight when they take on the Los Angeles Clippers (3-2) at home. Los Angeles’ addition of former MVP James Harden is not striking fear in the Knicks though.
Knicks: Early Struggles Not Phasing Team Ahead of James Harden’s Clippers Debut
Knicks star Jalen Brunson has found his footing offensively despite the team losing their last two games, and per Stefan Bondy of the New York Post, he’s not about to let Harden’s entry into the Clippers’ fold deter his readiness to win, saying:
“[Harden is] another weapon for them,” Jalen Brunson said. “They have a lot of great players over there. Really impressive résumés and all that stuff, and their careers have been nothing short of spectacular. So, it’s a lot of firepower. We’ve just gotta be ready to go.”
Strengthening the Knicks’ chances is the expected return of RJ Barrett, who is currently second on the team in scoring. Unfortunately for New York, their offense has been terrible. As a result, their 103.3 points per game rank last in the NBA.
Even with Barrett rejoining the starting rotation, the Knicks will need all hands on deck to contain Harden and the Clippers. Brunson has held New York up while All-Star Julius Randle has struggled mightily.
The Knicks are not moving the ball enough. They are not generating enough scoring opportunities in the pick-and-roll for Mitchell Robinson and their other bigs. Randle cannot crack 40 percent from the field. The Knicks are middle-of-the-pack in converting on the fast break and off of turnovers and a jolt to their offense is needed to turn things around.
The Knicks Require Near-Perfect Execution Against Clippers Juggernaut
Los Angeles is diametrically opposed to New York offensively. Juxtaposed to the Knicks’ dead-last offense, the Clippers have hung a league-leading 121.4 points a night on teams behind an NBA-best 42 percent clip from downtown.
Further, the Clippers now have the flexibility to deploy Harden in the starting lineup or off the bench. Considering the fast pace that the Clippers play with, Harden’s ball dominance and stagnation off the ball may be better suited to run the show with the second unit. Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said that he expects to bring Harden along slowly.
Either way, the Knicks have to deal with Paul George, who is the only player in the NBA scoring at least 28 points on 56 percent or better from the field. They also must contain Kawhi Leonard, who is contributing his own 23 PPG, and Russell Westbrook’s massive turnaround from beyond the arc where he shoots a career-best 38.9 percent.
The four of them will present the Knicks with their biggest challenge yet. George and Leonard are two of the best perimeter defenders in the league. However, with George running the four, Randle will have the chance to use his size advantage to finally get going. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST.