#507 Memphis Grizzliesvs.#508 New York Knicks
Written by Chris Kubala
NBA: Satday, October 28urday, October 29, 2016, Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, 7:30 pm ET
Line: New York -3; Over/Under: 196.5
It’s an inter-conference matchup from arguably one of the most famous sporting venues in the world. The Memphis Grizzlies are in the Big Apple as they take on the New York Knicks Saturday night from Madison Square Garden. Memphis opened their season with a 102-98 home win over Minnesota Wednesday night. New York opened the NBA schedule with an emphatic 117-88 whipping at the hands of the Cavaliers on the road Tuesday. Memphis holds a 20-19 advantage in the all-time regular season series. The Grizzlies won six straight and eight of the last nine in the series, including a 91-85 win here on February 5, 2016.
It wasn’t always pretty but basketball games aren’t beauty pageants. The team that scores the most wins and on Wednesday night, Memphis put just enough points on the board to put a check in the win column. The Grizzlies trailed by nine at the half but surged to a one point edge after three quarters by outscoring Minnesota 26-16 in the third. In a back and forth final quarter, the Grizzlies went on a 10-3 run over the last 1:37 to turn a 93-92 deficit into a 102-96 lead before giving up a pair of free throws with one second to play. It was a big turnaround for Memphis, who trailed 16-1 and 20-3 in the first quarter before waking up and realizing a game was going on.
Mike Conley led the Grizzlies in the win with 24 points and was one of five Memphis players in double figures. Zach Randolph came off the bench and posted a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Marc Gasol finished with 18 points, James Ennis contributed 15 and JaMychal Green chipped in 12 points and seven boards. Rookie Wade Baldwin IV had a solid debut with seven points, five rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks off the bench. Memphis shot 45 percent from the floor but was surprisingly good from the perimeter, knocking down 11 of 24 from beyond the arc. The Grizzlies held the Timberwolves to 41.9 percent shooting, in part thanks to 10 blocked shots. Memphis was a bit shorthanded as Tony Allen and Chandler Parsons were both out of the lineup.
The Knicks and the Nets share more than geographic location: the two teams had more roster turnover than anyone else in the league during the offseason. New York overhauled their entire roster from soup to nuts, including their coach. None of it really seemed to matter in the opener as Jeff Hornacek’s debut with the team hit the hardwood with all the force of a deflated basketball. Whether the Knicks can bounce back up will have to be determined. New York trailed by 10 after one quarter but cut the deficit to three at halftime. Unfortunately, the Knicks forgot a NBA game has two halves: they were outscored 69-43 after intermission.
New York shot only 36.9 percent from the field in the game and went 9 of 27 from three point range. A lot of the time, it was like trying to jam square pegs into round holes: Derrick Rose is used to the pick and roll but the Knicks play a triangle offense. Hornacek was a push the tempo, run and gun system with the Suns but that doesn’t work with New York, which is plodding and methodical to the point where shot clock violations are a bonus because you don’t have to watch them play offense for more than 24 seconds.
Carmelo Anthony led the team with 19 points. Rose had 17 in his debut but recorded just one assist. Kristaps Porzingis was the other New York player in double figures with 16 points plus seven boards. Brandon Jennings led the team with five assists off the bench but shot 1 of 7 from the field, finishing with seven points. Courtney Lee was held scoreless in 20 minutes. Joakim Noah posted an identical scoring total in the same amount of minutes. Zero points in 40 minutes from two starters doesn’t look good on the scoresheet. New York allowed Cleveland to shoot 47.9 percent from the floor and win the rebounding battle 51-42.
Only in early season NBA can you run across a line like this: a team that gets waxed by 29 points is favored over a team that wins by four. Sure, you can say the Knicks were beaten on the road by the defending champs. Yes, Memphis only beat the Timberwolves in a close game at home. The fact remains that the Knicks were terrible LAST SEASON and the Grizzlies were a playoff team despite their injuries. It’s going to take time for the Knicks to put together a cohesive unit (if that’s possible at all) with their current group. I’d be giddy getting points: take them and run.
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Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. He keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college, the NHL, the NBA and college basketball and MLB.