NBA London 2019: What can we expect?
The NBA season is in full swing, and it’s time for London’s O2 Arena to host another regular season match-up.
In this game, the eighth regular season contest to be played in London, we see a battle of two Eastern conference sides in New York Knicks and Washington Wizards.
This will be the third time that the O2 Arena has hosted the Knicks, whereas the Wizards will be playing on these shores for the very first time.
The Knickerbockers come into the game on a bad run of form, winning only once in their last 10 games. That came against a Los Angeles Lakers side without their star men, including LeBron James.
With the franchise sitting second bottom in the entire league, it remains to be seen whether the Knicks are actually trying to fight for wins, or are tanking the rest of the season in order to achieve their best chance at an early selection in the draft.
Wizards are currently 11th in the Eastern conference with a record of 18-26. They’re not out of the playoff picture yet, and will continue to fight to get into the top eight before the end of the campaign, but their current form isn’t entirely what they would’ve expected.
In their last 10 games, they’re split right down the middle, winning and losing five.
Stars of Concrete Jungle left behind
New York will be without big man Enes Kanter, who is embroiled in a political row with the President of his native Turkey, and has opted not to travel to London.
Star man Kristaps Porzingis is still out of action after having surgery on an ACL injury suffered against Milwaukee Bucks in February 2018.
The Latvian is currently making good progress in his rehabilitation, and “looked good” in his individual workout according to Knicks coach David Fizdale, but he’s not expected to return until late February.
Rookie Kevin Knox has been picking up the slack this season, improving game on game and becoming an influential star. In their last game, Knox scored a career-high 31 points in a narrow defeat against Philadelphia 76ers.
Coach Fizdale favours a rotation system, so it’s hard to call exactly what or who you’ll see line-up for the Knicks.
Stars Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee have all fallen out of favour in recent weeks, but the London showcase could see them feature.
Cruel injury spell on Wizards
It’s no secret that the inconsistency of the Washington side has been down to an over-reliance of one of their star men due to injury of others. The injuries have really highlighted a lack of depth to the Wizards squad, which should be of real concern for head coach Scott Brooks.
John Wall has consistently been one of the league’s best point guards since being the number one draft pick in 2010. Wall has struggled to overcome a heel injury picked up in a preseason fixture, and has since had surgery on the injury which is potentially season-ending, depending on his rehab.
Dwight Howard signed for the Wizards in the off-season, and has suffered a number of similar injuries since. Unable to put a consistent run of games together due to issues with his back and glutes, the 6ft 11in centre has undergone spinal surgery which will see him return in late January.
Markieff Morris is the last high-profile name out for the Wizards, with a neck injury keeping him sidelined until early February.
Can New York Knick the win?
On current form, you have to say that the Wizards go into the game as favourites. Both sides lost their last games narrowly.
Wizards lost by two against league leaders Toronto Raptors in a contest which ended 138-140.
New York came up just short against Philadelphia after mounting a second half comeback and missing a game-tying buzzer beater. They fell three short with a 105-108 loss.
Whatever the outcome, expect a spirited battling performance from a young Knicks side under an exciting coach, with a focused Wizards side looking to kick on with another victory that would push them closer to the playoff picture.
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