Game Preview: Knicks vs. Pelicans – 1/20/22

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In October, the New York Knicks defeated the New Orleans Pelicans, took their record to 5-1 and convinced some fans that this Bing-Bong team could fight their way into the playoffs.

How quickly things change.

The Pels were missing Brandon Ingram and Sion Williamson in that October affair, and its result took their sum of accomplishments to 1-6, reaffirming a lower set of expectations for their fan base.

While some Knicks loyalists are apoplectic about their heroes languishing outside of the playoffs, New Orleans loyalists can’t be shocked that their Big Easies rank thirteenth in the Western Conference. Most recently, the Birds lost to Boston 104-92, despite posting 22 points and 14 rebounds from their underrated center. Jonas Valančiūnas. More on him later.

Thursday, the Pelicans (16-28) will land at Madison Square Garden for another peck at the Bockers (22-23). With a 6-17 road record, these fowls look ripe for the picking, and the Knicks, two-game losers in a row, are hungry for a win.

Do pelicans peck? Tip-off at 7:30 p.m., ornithologists.

PROJECTED BEGINNERS

shooting guard Brandon Ingram leads New Orleans in average in points (22.7), assists (5.2), field goals (8.3), field goal attempts (18.7) and minutes (34 ,6). Despite his 7’3″ wingspan, the 24-year-old duke alum steals just 0.6 balls per game and ranks in the eleventh percentile for deflections (1.2 dpg). Evan Fournier, who has finally found his New York Groove in the middle of the season, will get their quota tonight.

Listed as doubtful for tonight, Devonte’Graham tops the Pels in 3-point attempts (8.4) and makes (3) on 35% shooting. So far in his fourth season, the 26-year-old point guard has averaged 13.8 points and 4.6 assists and is shooting 20-29 feet most often. Little Graham has a defensive rating of 115.5. Kemba walker should have easy looks against him if Graham plays.

small front Josh Hart averaged 13.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game in his fifth year. The 6’5″, 215 pounds Villanova the man takes 58% of his shots from within 10 feet and 24% catches. He only attempts three 3s per game due to 33% accuracy. Hart’s counterpart RJ Barrett had turned a corner of the end, then retreated into the doldrums. Barrett would do well to find his Maple Mojo in this one; he will need it against the tough competition ahead.

Tonight the frustrated bull known as Julius Randle will surely gore the thirty-fifth pick in this year’s draft, Herbert Jones. Although raw, the 6’8″, 210 lb Alabama alum showed promise, averaging 9.1 points and 3.7 rebounds in 29 minutes per game, plus 3.7 deflections, 1.4 steals and a block.

The aforementioned Valančiūnas dominate around iron. The 6’11”, 265-pound Lithuanian is fourth in each of these best rebound categories: total, per game, offensive and defensive. Playing his tenth season, the 29-year-old is averaging 18.4 points and 12 rebounds in 31.6 minutes per game and shooting 42% from deep on 2.5 attempts.

Sometimes Jonah activates Bombs away mode, as he did one night against the Clippers, going 7-8 long and finishing with 39 points, 15 rebounds. I like the big guy, but for now I’m committed to Michael Robinson. Vs Karl Anthony Towns Tuesday, however, Mitch had eight points, six cards and six fouls. Tonight’s mission won’t be much easier for the Cajun. More rebounds than fouls this time, please.

PREDICTIONS

The Pelicans are 4-6 in their last 10 games. Their wins have come against the Warriors, Clippers, Timberwolves and Cavaliers. They lost to the Jazz, Suns, Bucks, Raptors, Nets and Celtics. Honestly, how do you think New York (5-5 in their last 10 games) would fare against this competition?

No, New Orleans is not good. Their attack is twenty-fifth and their defense twenty-fourth. Thanks to Valančiūnas, however, they have the third-best rebound percentage at 51.8%. Comparatively, New York ranks twenty-third (O) and sixteenth (D), and eighth in rebound percentage. (50.9%). Should the Knicks win? Sure. Are they the top team? Sure…when they play to their ability. Will they do it tonight? Dude, I hope so.

New York has some tough luge coming up with the Clips, Cavs, Heat and Bucks all looming. No one wants to head into those trees with three straight losses on their back.

At Dolan’s. Thursday, 7:30 p.m. MSG and NBA League Pass. Rock ’em, put ’em on, Bockers!

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