5 Things to Know: Spurs Make Their Lone Trip to MSG for Showdown Against Knicks
1. Carmelo Anthony exploded for 21 fourth quarter points but the final push to the finish line was not enough in the 131-123 defeat to the Nuggets on Friday night. New York’s offense was clicking as it shot 55.9 percent from the floor and 42.1 behind the arc in the high-scoring shootout against Denver. Anthony finished with 33, Kristaps Porzingis added 17, and Brandon Jennings dished out 13 assists.
2. Joakim Noah missed his third straight game on Friday with a sore left hamstring. The Knicks center is not expected to return in today’s contest at MSG. New York could regain some depth in the frontcourt with the addition of Lance Thomas to the lineup today. Thomas indicated that he will be available for Sunday’s contest after missing 14 games due to an orbital fracture.
3. On Friday night, head coach Jeff Hornacek made a significant adjustment to the starting lineup. Hornacek opted for the three-guard lineup featuring Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings, and Courtney Lee next to Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. It’s yet to be determined if Hornacek will utilize this specific starting group on Sunday. San Antonio has a fairly big starting lineup with Danny Green at the 2 and the 6-foot-11 LaMarcus Aldridge at the power forward spot. Rose would have to defend Green and Anthony would most likely be matched up against Aldridge if Hornacek decides to go with the small-ball group today.
4. Kawhi Leonard might be the least talked about star in the NBA. Quietly, Leonard is racking up MVP-type of numbers by averaging a career-best 25.6 points per game on 48.6 percent shooting from the field and nearly 40 percent behind the arc on 5.1 attempts. Leonard is also considered one of the top defenders in the game while averaging 1.7 steals. He’s accomplishing these impressive statistics in just 33.4 minutes per game. Over his last two games, Leonard has combined to score 64 points, 10 assists, and 12 rebounds in wins for the Spurs.
5. San Antonio enters Sunday’s contest riding back-to-back wins on the current eight-game road trip. The Spurs are once again enjoying a stellar season with a 41-12 record that includes the second-best road record at 22-6. This year, San Antonio owns the No. 2 net rating in the league, No. 1 in defensive rating, and ranks fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio. The Spurs are a slow team in terms of pace of play as they rank no. 26 in that category and towards the bottom of the league in fast break points.
by Jonah Ballow