Coming off of a disappointing loss to the Boston Celtics, the New York Knicks need a victory more than ever. Having lost five of their last six games and the last two coming by just two measly points, a competitive match against the Memphis Grizzlies will occur on Friday evening.
With the Knicks now two games below .500, ESPN has the grizzlies as 57.9% favorites over the Knicks, who currently ranked fourth in the Atlantic division. Overall, they claim the eighth seed, with just one game over the Indiana Pacers, who are also in the middle of a tough stretch.
Memphis, on the other hand, has won five of their last six games, scoring no less than 116 points in the last four. A combination of Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, and Jonas Valanciunas have dominated.
Three keys for the Knicks to beat the Grizzlies:
1.) Julius Randle must be efficient throughout the game
It seems as if Julius Randleâ€™s performance is directly correlated to the Knicks winning games, and that makes sense considering he is their only All-Star. When Randle is consistent throughout a contest, New York oftentimes walks away with a victory.
However, Randle has been dealing with a nagging injury that is undisclosed. He struggled shooting in the loss to Boston but awakened in the fourth quarter when it was too late. The primary issue the Knicks deal with on a gamely basis is that they play hard the entire game while opponents coast and turn it on in the fourth quarter to steal the win. If Julius can remain consistent shooting against Memphis, it will increase their chances of victory tenfold.
2.) Don’t let Ja Morant get hot
One of the hottest young players in the NBA is Morant, who is currently averaging 18.8 points and 7.4 assists per game. His development as a point guard has been enjoyable to watch, and the Knicks must find a way to limit his influence on the game. As arguably the best defense in basketball, the Knicks are currently allowing a league-best 104.1 points per game.
With a day of rest on Thursday, they should be in good shape regarding their energy levels, and they will need most of it to stop Morant from taking over.
3.) Play Knick defense
As stated above, the Knicks live and die by their offense, but their defense has been nothing short of incredible this season. As the best defensive unit in basketball, they donâ€™t have that secondary elite player to help them on the offensive side of things. That has been their primary struggle, but second-year player RJ Barrett has made significant leaps in his scoring efficiency, finishing with 29 against Boston. If he can continue growing and picking up momentum, the Knicks will pull out a few of these close games, but they need it sooner rather than later.