On a night when the New York Knicks may be missing their floor general, many eyes will be focused on the visiting team's point guard. Since the Knicks made the blockbuster deal for Carmelo Anthony, a lot of discussion has jumped to the future, where one of two superstar point guards is expected to jump on board and complete the Knicks' triumvirate. One of those bantered about, Chris Paul, comes to Madison Square Garden tonight as the Knicks host the Hornets.
For the second straight night, the Knicks (30-28) will face stiff defensive opposition, but that never seems to bother Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and the rest of the Knicks; they put up 110 points in Tuesday's loss to the Magic, a very good defensive team. The Hornets (35-27) rank third in the league in opponent's points-per-game, but again, the focus will be the Knicks defense and how they contain Paul and leading scorer David West (19.1 ppg). Last night, the Knicks second half defense left a lot to be desired, and were especially torn apart by Jameer Nelson's 14 fourth quarter points.
Would the loss of Billups (deep thigh bruise) be crippling? It remains to be seen. The Knicks offense has gotten better in each game since 'Melo and Billups joined the team, but Billups had trouble defending Nelson, a quicker point than he. You'd have to image he'd have a tough time with Paul, so if the starting duty falls to Toney Douglas, it might not be the worst thing for the Knicks, on the defensive side at least. On offense, the Knicks will need a little more consistency from Anthony, who struggled from the field last night.
Don't expect Paul to get the treatment from the Garden faithful the way LeBron James did in past years when he came as a visiting player. This time around, the Knicks crowd has an actual team to root for, with playoff aspirations and stars of its own. But don't be shocked if he hears a few cheers during pre-game introductions, either.