Spurs vs. Knicks: Offense Gets Another Opportunity, Kawhi Gets Another Challenge

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The San Antonio Spurs make their only visit to Madison Square Garden Sunday, roughly 38 hours after they wrapped up a surprisingly low scoring victory over the Golden State Warriors. Awaiting them is an underwhelming and now injured New York Knicks squad.

How disappointing they’ve been so far depends on your expectations of them coming into the season. Even at their worst, everyone expected them to be a playoff team. They’ve lost Tyson Chandler for the next four to six weeks due to a right leg fracture. This leaves the Knicks with zero reliable post defenders and truthfully, they don’t have a ton of reliable defenders to begin with. With Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudamire patrolling the paint, the struggling Spurs offense should get plenty of open looks at the basket. A game like this could be especially beneficial to Manu Ginobili and Marco Belinelli, who are both hovering around the 40 percent shooting mark from the field. Currently, the Spurs are averaging just 93 points a game, but you get the sense they’re mostly getting the shots they want, they’re just not dropping. Perhaps playing a team where the paint could be wide open is just what the struggling Spurs need to get back to the high scoring output we’re used to.

More interesting that the Spurs offense is the challenge Kawhi Leonard faces on a nightly bases. Friday night, he was tasked with containing a white hot Klay Thompson. Sunday afternoon, he’ll have to deal with Carmelo Anthony. Say what you want about the Knicks less than stellar 2-3 start, but Melo is still Melo for better or worse. He’s averaging 24 points a game and pulling down nearly 10 rebounds a night. He’s playing even more power forward this year than he was last season. While we can assume Leonard will start on Melo, what we don’t know is how often the Knicks will go small and how the Spurs will respond. Friday night against Charlotte, the Knicks started Melo at the four and played Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton in the backcourt together. Should we see that lineup again, will Pop start Tiago Splitter or will he opt for Boris Diaw? It would be really tough for Splitter to guard any man on the court. I suppose you could try to hide him on Iman Shumpert, but that’s really the only option when you consider Tim Duncan will start on Bargnani.

This is a game the Spurs should win. They’re defense has been excellent so far this season and it appears Tony Parker can’t be kept out of the paint against the likes of Andrew Bogut, so he should have a field day against Bargs and Stat. Still, the quick Friday night to Sunday afternoon turnaround could bite them and the Knicks offense can still catch fire or we could just see one of those Melo 50 point explosions at MSG. This early season has just been too unpredictable to make any good guesses. Tip-off is set for 11 a.m. central time and can be seen on Fox Sports Southwest.

All stats provided by NBA.com’s Stats Page.