|Get ready for a big Knicks-Nets game on MLK Day. (Getty Images)|
On a historic Jan. 21 on which we have both the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. and the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, we also get a day's worth of NBA action. MLK Day has often been celebrated by the NBA with games spread throughout the day. There will be in-arena celebrations, special colorways for sneakers, and nearly 12 hours of NBA action.
With everything that's going on, Matt Moore and Zach Harper have a guide for you of the five most important things to watch Monday with the NBA games.
The big question when these two teams face off is how do the Nets either stop or keep up with the Knicks' 3-point shooting. The Nets do an incredible job of defending the corner 3-point ball, which is a shot the Knicks love. The Knicks ranked 10th in the NBA in corner 3-point percentage with 39.9 percent. The Nets manage to defend that shot at the seventh best rate, allowing just 35.1 percent.
However, the Nets are the worst team in the NBA at defending the above the break 3-point shot (38.9 percent). The Knicks are the best team at shooting that shot (39.8 percent). So how do the Nets chase the Knicks off the line? When the Knicks get dribble penetration off the pick-and-roll or a Carmelo Anthony isolation play, they love to kick to the corner 3-point shooter. If he's open, the Knicks will take the shot, but they're not opposed to swinging the ball around the perimeter.
This is where Deron Williams, MarShon Brooks, C.J. Watson, and Joe Johnson have to be on their game defensively. They're going to need to chase down those swing passes and anticipate rotations. If they don't get a hand up in the face of the Knicks' shooters, they could be looking at a long day of defending.
It's weird to accept that the Los Angeles Lakers will have nothing to do with the Pacific Division title this season, but that's absolutely the case. As the Lakers have struggled, the Warriors and Clippers have played above even lofty preseason expectations. The Clippers have distanced themselves from the Warriors throughout the season with a seven-game lead in the Pacific, but the Warriors are still dangerous enough to make a run at it by season's end. A win Monday would be a must if they even want to think about winning the division.
So how do they do that? It all could reside on who defends the pick-and-roll ball handler better. Both teams are quite skilled at running it, with guards like Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, and Jarrett Jack knowing how to navigate the defense when they give different defensive looks. The key though is the Warriors are really bad at defending that pick-and-roll initiator (29th in the NBA, 0.88 PPP) and the Clippers are great at defending it (second in the NBA, 0.69 PPP).
Having Chris Paul flanked by athletic wings and high-flying big inside certainly helps him remain aggressive, but CP3 and Bledsoe are two of the best point guards in the league at getting through and around screens on the perimeter. Curry and Klay Thompson still need to work on this plenty, especially when they're on the floor with David Lee hedging the pick. If the Warriors can't stop the pick-and-roll today, they can kiss the Pacific Division goodbye and just be happy with being better than the Lakers. Oh speaking of ...
4. Los Angeles Lakers at the Chicago Bulls to see just how hilariously bad the Lakers are right now, 9:30 p.m. ET
I know what you're thinking: WHY would anybody want to watch Wizards-Blazers?
This could be a much more entertaining game than you'd imagine. The Wizards were the worst team in basketball to start the season but have received a much-needed boost from the return of John Wall. Washington is 3-2 since Wall returned and have looked a lot more competent. There is a reason for pick-and-roll big men to dive hard to the basket, and Bradley Beal looks like a very good scoring option when he has a good point guard setting him up.
On the other side, Damian Lillard is just too good as a rookie not to want to watch every game of his. He's running away with the Rookie of the Year award, and that's with Anthony Davisbeing healthy for an extended stretch. People love rookie guards who can score and Lillard fits that bill, while also helping lead a Portland team to the playoffs at the moment.
Throw these two in front of each other and you're going to get a pretty fun matchup of young point guards. That's not a bad way to end a day of hoops.