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Rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs will travel to Madison Square Garden for a matchup with the New York Knicks on Wednesday evening.
Wemby’s Spurs have stolen a couple of nice wins (including two off the Phoenix Suns) but just gave up 152 points in a loss to the Indiana Pacers. Meanwhile, the Knicks’ shooting woes momentarily subsided in Monday’s 111-97 win over the Los Angeles Clippers in James Harden’s debut with his new squad.
Here are our thoughts on the matchup and how the oddsmakers have set the betting odds for Wednesday’s showdown in NYC.
The Knicks are heavy favorites coming off Monday’s victory, which marked their first home win of the season and snapped a two-game skid. The Spurs are 2-2 on the road and dropped back-to-back contests after winning three of their first five.
|San Antonio Spurs||+9.5 (-115)||+333||Over 224.5 (-105)|
|New York Knicks||-9.5 (-105)||-450||Under 224.5 (-115)|
Many questions were asked of Wembanyama before the season began. What would he look like as a rookie? What are realistic expectations for a player of his size and skillset? How will he handle the physicality and demanding schedule of the NBA?
What the 19-year-old Frenchman has put on tape thus far has been mostly excellent, especially for a rookie. His 19.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game are all high marks on the Spurs, and he’s done all of that while only playing the fourth-most minutes on average.
Wemby is also shooting a respectable 46.2% from the field and 75.7% at the line, though his three-point percentage is down at 32.4% (similar to what it was in the French league). He’s also been an extreme deterrent at the rim for opposing players but has a propensity to abandon the defensive coverage to try to make a play on his own, which has led to numerous open shots.
The Spurs, as a whole, rank 22nd in offensive rating and 29th in defensive rating. They’re also dead last in rebounding rate and three-point defense, both of which are major indicators of success in the modern NBA.
On the other side of Wednesday’s equation lies the Knicks. Their star player, Julius Randle, finally broke out of what was one of the worst starts to a season in NBA history.
Even though the two-time All-Star put up 27 points and 10 rebounds against the Clippers, he’s averaged 15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.9 assists on 29.9/25/67.5 percent shooting splits. He’s also taking more shots (16.7) than he is scoring points per game.
Where Randle has struggled, Jalen Brunson and RJ Barrett have been up to the challenge. Both are averaging at least 22 points per game on 39% and 44% shooting from three-point territory, respectively.
The Knicks are excellent on defense and on the glass. They have the best rebounding percentage in the league and grab more offensive rebounds per game (15.3) than anyone, all while giving up the second-fewest points per game (102.4) and maintaining the second-best defensive rating.
New York’s struggles have primarily come on offense. They are shooting just 40.8% from the field (the worst in the league) and have the third-worst defensive rating, whereas they were fourth a year ago.
The Knicks are 3-3-2 against the spread and covered the 1.5-point line with ease their last time out. The Spurs are 3-4 ATS and covered in every win while failing to cover in every loss.
The teams split a two-game regular-season series last year, one apiece. However, the Spurs are a totally different team with Wembanyama in the fold, especially now that they are featuring him more than before (18th in usage rate amongst players with 100+ minutes).
One of the most important (and unglamorous) situations to monitor will be the battle of the boards. Wemby grabbed at least nine rebounds in three straight games, but his lightweight frame will be put to the test by Randle and Mitchell Robinson, two of the strongest players and best rebounders in the league.
One area the Spurs’ offense has shone in is moving the ball. They rank third in assists per game despite only having one true point guard, Tre Jones, who doesn’t even start.
All in all, Wemby’s length and Randle’s cold start should be enough to force the latter into another poor shooting night. That puts pressure on Brunson and Barrett to find success driving the lane and the team as a whole to score second-chance opportunities.
The Spurs’ lack of defensive discipline is exactly what the doctor ordered for a Knicks team that has struggled to shoot the ball. Their youthful inexperience and lack of a capable distributor in the starting lineup should also prevent them from ever finding a real offensive flow.
We still think the Spurs will cover the large spread, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Knicks control the overall tempo.
Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself on delivering breaking news and insightful analyses of the industry. Grant graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 and is feverishly pursuing his ambitions in the sports betting field.
In his free time, Grant can be found passionately watching sports, doing a workout, or searching for adventure with his friends.More info on Grant Mitchell
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