Like the NFL, the NBA is trying to expand into London.
They’ve held nine games in the city since 2011, with the most recent being last year on January 11 when the Boston Celtics took a 114-103 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
After days of sightseeing, league events and team gatherings, today will mark the 10th NBA London Game — with the two teams being the New York Knicks (10-33) and Washington Wizards (18-26) partaking in the festivities. The game will be held at London’s O2 Arena, and will be nationally televised in the United States on NBA TV. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:00 PM ET. (8:00 PM in London)
For the Knicks, this is their third time playing in the NBA London Game since 2013.
A vacation couldn’t have come at a better time for New York. In their last 19 games, the Knicks have compiled a record of 2-17. But now that the vacationing part is over and they’re back to business today against the Wizards, reality will set back in quickly — especially without their top-rebounder Enes Kaner. He’s also third in scoring for the team.
Kanter has decided to stay in the United States due to concerns for his safety because of his ongoing feud with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey. According to a Turkish newspaper, prosecutors in the country are wanting an international arrest warrant out on Kanter, as well as an extradition. They claim he’s a member of a terrorist organization.
On Wednesday, Kanter tweeted in response to the situation:
Turkish Government can NOT present any single piece of evidence of my wrongdoing. ?♂️
I don’t even have a parking ticket in the US ? (True)
I have always been a law-abiding resident. ? https://t.co/DxLgvFcTST
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) 16 January 2019
He also had some fun with it, despite the serious circumstances:
The only thing I terrorize is the rim ? pic.twitter.com/T9mk3bkzKR
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) 16 January 2019
Recently, Kanter told the New York Post: “I’m going to stay here and practice. It’s pretty sad. All this stuff affects my career in basketball. I want to help my team win, but because of one lunatic guy I can’t even go there to do my job. They got a lot of spies there. I can get killed pretty easy.”
Intense stuff. On a lighter note for the Knicks, they did get guard Frank Ntilikina back from an ankle sprain on Sunday — he’ll be able to provide depth for New York’s bench.
For the Washington Wizards, it’s been more of a party mode in London. Despite the overtime loss against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, Washington has won five out of their last eight games — and this without their star John Wall and big-man Dwight Howard.
And on their winning streak, the Wizards have played high-powered playoff teams as well — they were able to take down the Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks on this stretch.
Wall may be out for the season and Howard currently has no timetable for his return, yet the Wizards find themselves just 2 1/2 games behind the No. 8 position in the Eastern Conference — the last spot to make it into the postseason.
“You’re talking two high-level starters — an All-Star starting point guard and Dwight has been one of our big signings this summer,” Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said to Sporting News. “It’s difficult, but our guys aren’t using it as an excuse. They’re coming out there and competing and hopefully, we can continue to do that and battle for a playoff spot.”
The Knicks’ biggest challenge will be to figure out how to stop the firepower of Bradley Beal. Beal has been magnificent the past three games averaging 36.0 PPG, while for the season overall he tallies a 24.8 PPG mark.
Thomas Bryant (9.0 PPG/5.3 RPG) will be starting in place of Dwight Howard today.
Now that we’ve gotten all that covered, enjoy your stay in London!
PLAYERS TO WATCH
NEW YORK KNICKS
CHECK THE NUMBERS
NEW YORK KNICKS
We have a pretty balanced matchup on paper between the two teams, and the New York Knicks take two of the major categories. In offensive production, the Knicks are in the negative here — -6 at 107.3 PPG. The shooting has been horrendous, and that’s why they come in at -3 hitting 43.1 FG%. The first advantage for New York comes in the rebounding end. They have a solid +4 advantage at 44.7 RPG. Another key statistic, defense, also belongs to the Knicks at 115.8 PA — that’s +1.
The Washington Wizards come in pretty even with the New York Knicks, taking two out of the four categories. They have a +6 advantage in points production putting up 113.5 PPG, and another positive comes in the shooting department as well — they’re +3 at 46.5 FG%. On the rebounding end, the Wizards come in -4 averaging 40.9 RPG. Luckily for the Wiz, Enes Kanter isn’t playing, but bad news is, neither is Dwight Howard. On the defensive end, it’s another disadvantage for Washington. They’re -1 at 116.8 PA.
The Washington Wizards might be without John Wall and Dwight Howard, but at least they have contributors like Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. to keep them going. The New York Knicks, without Enes Kanter and most-likely Tim Hardaway Jr., have zero starpower to keep things moving.
As a result, we may have to issue a blowout alert in this one, but in the Knicks defense, the emotion of being in London might keep them in it. I say we meet somewhere in the middle. With Kanter and Howard out, the battle in the paint is up for grabs — and that’s what the game will come down to today.
If that’s the case, you’ve got to ride with Washington. Wizards’ backup Thomas Bryant (9.0 PPG/5.3 RPG) is far more effective than Knicks’ Luke Kornet (6.8 PPG/2.6 RPG), therefore the Wiz should be able to have the leverage on the boards. To go along with that, Bradley Beal’s scoring easily outdoes the whole New York team himself. The atmosphere in London gives us an entertaining game throughout, but the Wizards pull away late for the win — too much leverage in scoring and rebounding for Washington.