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The Teams: Washington Wizards (1-12) @ New York Knicks (10-4)

The Location: Madison Square Gardens, New York, New York.

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

TV, Radio: CSNW, 106.7 FM

The History: Over 276 regular season games, the New York Knicks hold a significant advantage, winning 164 games to Washington’s 112.

The Washington Wizards, a day removed from their relieving 84-82 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers (their first of the season), travel to New York to take on a Knicks team that has cooled off significantly as of late. Although they beat the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night, they have lost three of their last five games played. Admittedly, all of those losses have come on the road, but two of them were against teams without a winning record (Dallas and Houston). Needless to say, they haven’t been playing particularly well after starting the season off on a nine-game winning streak.

Meanwhile, the Wizards are on their first win streak of the season. It wasn’t pretty against Portland, and they almost blew a fifteen point lead in the process, but it was their first victory. My guess is that the Washington Wizards would like to compliment that win with yet another one, but nothing about this season has proven to be predictable except for losses. Jordan Crawford had the hot hand against the Blazers, scoring 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field. He’ll look to ignite Washington’s offense yet again, as they’ll need it going up against a Knicks team that ranks fourth in the league in scoring at 102 points per game.

Why you should watch: A possible win streak against a team that may actually be beatable

I know it sounds ridiculous that a Wizards team that has lost 12 games this season while only winning one of those, but it’s actually possible. New York hasn’t been playing that well in the past week, as they’ve given up 96 or more points in four of their last five games. Teams that give up 100 points or more consistently can sometimes be beaten when their shots aren’t falling. If Carmelo Anthony, the team’s leading scorer and potential MVP candidate, and his shots don’t go down then the Wizards might be able to catch them off guard. That being said, considering ‘Melo has shot 50% or better in 7 of the 14 games that he’s played this season, it’s easier said than done.

But even if Carmelo Anthony does score, there’s a chance that the Wizards could still win by minimizing the impact of some of New York’s other players. Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith, New York’s second and third leading scorer, are streaky shooters at best. Neither one is setting the world on fire, either, with both shooting 42% from the floor. If the Wizards can keep those two away from the three point line, then they may stand a chance at shutting down this offense altogether.

Yes, New York is balanced, but they’re also very streaky and when the three ball isn’t falling, they are prone to losing games.

Key Points and Storylines

1.) Jordan Crawford has to keep his hot hand going

When Jordan Crawford is actually hitting his shots, the Washington Wizards become a team that is capable of competing offensively with other teams, which given the defense they’ve been playing, is really all they need. Crawford has unfortunately not fared too well against the New York Knicks historically; he is shooting a woeful 23% from the field against them in 3 games over his career. Worse still, his road performance has been only slightly better this season; he’s hitting only 38.9% from the floor over six games. That really doesn’t bode well for the Wizards hopes of success.

Then again, Crawford is capable of going on five or six game hot streaks from the floor, as he did late last season where he had that many games shooting 45% or better from the field. Quite frankly, that’s all we’re asking out of the guy — go on a hot streak and establish yourself as a potent scorer. If he can do that against a Knicks team that will give him those kind of shots, then the Wizards may be in some luck.

2.) Kevin Seraphin and Nene have to use their athleticism tonight

The two best low post scorers for the Wizards are going to be facing a tough task tonight against one of the more impressive front court units in the NBA. Tyson Chandler is an expert at clogging up the lane for opposing big men, and Rasheed Wallace has channeled Father Time and asked for a career revival on the defensive end. Between those two, the Knicks have a front court capable of making life difficult for anyone with their length. In Nene and Seraphin, the Wizards have two guys who can score down low, but are considerably less vertically talented as Chandler and Wallace, meaning they will have to be crafty to score without being blocked.

Nene and Seraphin are both more athletic and quicker than their counterparts, so they may be able to sneak in a few baskets. They also have relatively decent shots from midrange, so that could force Chandler and Wallace to venture a bit further out from the hoop. Doing that would open up the lane for Crawford and (hopefully) Beal to slash the lane. If they can manage that, the Wizards will be headed towards another victory.

Prediction: Washington probably doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with a Knicks team, and a loss after their first win seems entirely probable.

Knicks win 100-92

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By: Colenda

After an Olympic break from Diming, I’ve decided to pick up where I left off by examining league-wide offseason activity. And with the happenings over the last two weeks, it made it a perfect time to get back on the horse. The Atlantic Division has spent the summer of 2012 constantly in the headlines. With multiple trades and free agent acquisitions, the Atlantic’s members have had a very busy offseason. In fact, each of the division’s five members has seen major roster overhauls and the addition of at least one player expected to take on a key role in 2012-13. Last year’s winner, the Celtics, have lost a member of its Big Three to the newest Big Three in Miami. However, they bolstered their roster with young players through the draft and the addition of sixth man extraordinaire, Jason “the Jet” Terry. The constantly scrutinized Knicks decided against bringing back Linsanity for an encore, and instead brought in veteran backcourt of Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton. The 76ers finally decided to part ways with the underappreciated Andre Iguodala in a shocking move by joining in the fun of getting the better of new Magic GM, Rob Hennigan, in the Dwight Howard trade. I am still scratching my head trying to figure out how the Magic traded Howard for Bynum, yet somehow ended up getting Arron Afflalo and let Bynum head to Philly but that’s a story for another column (a shameless plug for the Southeast division’s recap to follow). Raptor fans (they exist, right?) no longer have to wait for last year’s highly drafted Jonas Valanciunas, as he will make his NBA debut this season. They also added veterans Kyle Lowry and Landry Fields to a team clearly hoping to try and stay afloat in this extremely competitive division. With the Barclay’s Center expected to open to start the season, the Nets are now official residents of Brooklyn. Although they really blew it with the new logo, they did manage to get a second star (although you could argue there isn’t a more over rated “star” than Joe Johnson) via trade to ensure they could lock up free agent Deron Williams long-term. All-in-all it has been a very eventful offseason in the Atlantic division. Now a let’s take a closer look at the happenings for each of the division’s members:

Boston Celtics (1st place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Fab Melo, Jared Sullinger, Jason Terry, Dionte Christmas, Kris Joseph, Courtney Lee
Players Lost: Ray Allen, Greg Stiemsma, Ryan Hollins, Sasha Pavlovic, Jermaine O’Neal
The Dime: Ray Allen has packed his bags for sunny weather and wide-open corner threes playing alongside DWade and LeBron in Miami. Entering the scene is one of the NBA’s top sharp-shooters, Jason Terry, someone much more comfortable in the reserve role which he is expected to play behind the emerging Avery Bradley. The Celtics drafted the free-falling Jared Sullinger late in the first round, and Syracuse’s suspended Brazilian center, Fab Melo, as well as his college teammate Kris Joseph in round two.  In addition to a strong draft Boston also secured the services of Jeff Green and Courtney Lee for next year. The Celtics have sufficiently re-tooled around Rondo, Garnett and Pierce for another run at the division crown and playoff glory. Obviously, the continued health of the aging Pierce and Garnett play are a major factor in whether Boston will be able to continue their Atlantic division dominance. With Allen gone, I will be interested in watching the continued offensive emergence off the defensive backcourt of Rondo and Bradley. Rondo is now a bona-fide star, in my opinion, and I think he is primed for his best year yet. Bradley began to show signs of a streaky outside jumper and a knack for scoring in the paint before his season was cut off pre-playoffs by injury. His ability to get healthy and pick up where he left off with his play late from last year will be one of the biggest factors in determining Boston’s success this season.
New York Knicks (2nd place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Pablo Prigioni, Chris Smith, James White, Ronnie Brewer, Marcus Camby, Chris Copeland, Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd
Players Lost: Renaldo Balkman, Baron Davis, Landry Fields, Jeremy Lin, Bill Walker, Toney Douglas, Josh Harrelson, Jared Jefferies
The Dime: The Knicks were faced with a huge financial decision this year; sign Jeremy Lin and take a sizeable tax hit or let him walk and re-tool with cheaper players. They decided against bringing back Lin, and opted to give the keys to the car to Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd. Felton enjoyed his best season in New York playing for former coach, Mike Dantoni, and the Knicks are hoping the return to MSG will bring that type of production from Felton. Marcus Camby was also brought back for another stint to bolster their bench and provide additional shot-blocking depth behind foul-prone Tyson Chandler. However, the biggest news for the Knicks this summer has to be the play of Carmelo in the Olympics. In case you’ve been under a rock the last few weeks, Melo was a killer in Great Britain. Knicks faithful can only hope that he brings this form back to the U.S. and the NBA season in 2012-2013. I still think the Knicks are more glitter than substance, but if Melo can put the team on his shoulders like he did with Team USA at times during the Olympics, they should be able to compete for the division crown and a top spot in the East. Outside of Melo’s Olympic run the other massive storyline for MSG residents will be the health and play of the oft-injured, and highly-paid Amare Stoudamire. He’s being paid super-star money; he’s got to produce at a super-star level in order for this team to life up to the lofty expectations of New York media.
Philadelphia 76ers (3rd place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Kwame Brown, Arnett Moultrie, Jason Richardson, Maalik Wayns, Nick Young, Andrew Bynum, Dorell Wright
Players Lost: Jodie Meeks, Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic, Sam Young, Andres Nocioni, Elton Brand, Louis Williams
The Dime: The 76ers may have come away with the steal of the offseason. Somehow they finagled their way into the inevitable deal that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers for Andrew Bynum. When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, they were the team that came away with the second-best player in the trade while not giving up the best. Hell, Iggy wasn’t even the third best player involved (I’ll help you save face some, Mr. Hennigan). I don’t think I will ever understand what the Magic were doing, but Doug Collins and company have to be thrilled. The Sixers will move forward and build around Bynum (if they can sign him next summer), Thad Young, Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday, and Spencer Hawes. Not a half-bad team. They also added my former teammate, and Philly native, Maalik Wayns, in free agency, as well as former Wizards Swaggy Young, and Kwawe Brown (Who has to be thrilled to re-unite with the man who made him cry in his second professional practice). Although the Sixers won’t compete to win the division, they will certainly be competitive and a playoff team for many years to come in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto Raptors (4th place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Quincy Acy, Tomislav Zubcic, Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross, John Lucas, Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields
Players Lost: Aaron Gray, Rasual Butler
The Dime: NBA Canada made a run at bringing the nation’s prodigal son, Steve Nash, back north of the border. However, he spurned their offer and instead opted for LA (can you really blame him?). This did not prevent the Raptors from having a decent offseason, however. They added Kyle Lowry via trade, Landry Fields and John Lucas in free agency, and will get to see their last two first round picks, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas, begin their NBA careers together this year. I’m not going to sit here and tell you the Raptors are primed to turn their losing ways around because of this offseason haul, but they are moving in the right direction. From all accounts, Valanciunas is a real stud and has the potential to be an impact player in the league. I haven’t personally seen him play, but I look forward to following this youngster develop. At least there is now a little reason to flip to a Raptors game if you find it on TV.
Brooklyn Nets (5th place in 2011-2012)
Players Added: Joe Johnson, Tyshawn Taylor, Ilkan Karaman,
Players Lost: Damian James, Mehmet Okur, Gerald Green, Jordan Farmer, Anthony Marrow, Johan Petro, DeShawn Stevenson, Jordan Williams
The Dime: The Brooklyn Nets seemed to be on the verge of opening the new Barclay’s Center with Gerald Wallace as the team’s best player. Yikes. Luckily, they somehow swung a deal with the Hawks that landed them Joe Johnson right before Deron packed his bags for home (Dallas) and convinced the point guard that he had the help he so craved.  In my opinion, the Nets will be teaming up the two most overrated super-stars in the game today. They have the big contracts, but have never really taken a team on their back and led them to the promised  land (or even past the second round consistently). The two of them should produce one of the highest scoring backcourt duos in the league, and are natural fits alongside one-another, but I can’t see the pair teaming up to produce serious results where it matters, in the playoffs.  However, due to the offseason activity, the Nets will be more of a contender in the division, and should most certainly find themselves in the playoffs next year. Although I do not think a core of Williams and Johnson is going to make the Nets a championship contender, they will put on a good show for the new fans in Brooklyn. The moves will also make the conversation for best team in the city a little more interesting. The Russian Mark Cuban will be happy with the headlines, but not with the end product on the court. The team still has a ways to go before being a true championship contender, but the moves of this offseason have Brooklyn trending into the positive with a team that will be much more competitive than last season’s last place squad.

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