The NBA is back in London, playing the 9th UK based regular season game on Thursday, January 17th. Pitting the Washington Wizards against the New York Knicks, in front of what is expected to be a sold-out arena.
For the Wizards, this is their first trip to this side of the pond. While the Knicks are searching for their first UK win having played and lost twice over here already. The Knicks enter the game as a substantial underdog, they’ve won just one game since December 16th. Meanwhile, for the Wizards, they’re currently sitting at 11th in the NBA’s Eastern Conference and have hopes of sneaking into the playoffs.
Fans are in for a treat from the Wizards, as shooting guard Bradley Beal has been on a tear recently. Beal looks reborn ever since fellow backcourt player point guard John Wall was ruled out for the season. He currently leads the team in points per game and is coming off a 43-point triple double against the Toronto Raptors. Importantly for the Wiz, Beal is shooting 3 pointers at about a 40% clip. It seems all it took to get Beal playing at the level you would expect from a 3rd overall pick is no Wall.
On the New York side, they’ve made the trip sans all-star forward Kristaps Porzingis who is continuing to recover from torn ACL suffered against the Bucks in February 2018. The team opted to leave Porzingis stateside with a view to having him back for the 2019/2020 NBA season.
Another blow for New York is the status of team scoring leader Tim Hardaway Jr, who is questionable for the game due to a nagging hamstring injury. If Hardaway doesn’t play, that means 3 of the Knicks most important pieces are missing.
Also absent for the Knicks is centre Enes Kanter, who has remained in the US amid security fears. The Turkish national has been a vocal opponent of Turkey’s President Erdogan, has expressed concerns over his safety should he leave the US.
It’s a shame that the fans won’t get to see some of the bigger names in this contest, as undoubtedly the prospect of seeing Wall, Kanter, Porzingis and Hardaway was a reason some fans bought their tickets.
However, this game is pretty much a must win for Washington if they hope to make a push into the NBA playoffs. As such expect to see them going full tilt, and I’m fully ready for Beal to go off again. If Beal does come out firing as he did against Toronto, there’s very little chance the Knicks can do anything to slow him down, and that will be fun to watch.
You can watch the NBA London 2019 game between the Washington Wizards and the New York Knicks on Sky Sports USA starting at 8 pm.