NBA hits London with Knicks set to steal the show

Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks
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The Detroit Pistons and the New York Knicks will be eyeing a winning trip across the pond in this regular season clash, but as the stars descend on the O2, who will return home victorious?

"Carmelo Anthony has proven already so far this season that he is more than capable of leading them into the play-offs and beyond, posting up big numbers on a consistent basis."

New York Knicks

The Knicks currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference, with the all-conquering and current NBA champions Miami Heat the only team with a better record.

As the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics struggle for consistency, the Knicks have a real opening and will be hoping to push Miami all the way and end the regular season as the best in the East.

When on top of their game, the Knicks' ball movement has been key. Blessed with a roster full of proficient three-point shooters, the likes of Steve Novak, J.R. Smith and Jason Kidd will all be relishing the prospect of putting on a real show from beyond the arc. Make no mistake about it, when the Knicks are feeling it, they get buckets.

Such has been the impact of Smith since his arrival in the off-season, many are touting him with a place in the NBA All Stars game in Houston next month.

However, key to their fortunes is their stand-out player and one of the biggest stars of the NBA, Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks forward has proven already so far this season that he is more than capable of leading them into the play-offs and beyond, posting up big numbers on a consistent basis.

Averaging 29.3 points-per-game, he is undoubtedly the 'go-to guy' for the Knicks offensively, and his performance will no doubt have a huge bearing on the outcome on Thursday night. His last outing produced a 27 point game, as the Knicks ended a three-game losing streak with a 100-87 win over the New Orleans Hornets.

Fellow forward Chris Copeland is also one to keep an eye on, with the 28-year-old rookie having contributed 22 points of his own in the win, and impressing many with his season performances.

Both Anthony and Tyson Chandler, a huge presence on both boards, will have fond memories of the city, having helped Team USA to secure gold at the Olympics last summer.

Chandler has been an ever-present for the Knicks so far this season, starting all 37 games, and his rebounding stats dwarf those of his team-mates with 168 offensively, and a staggering 236 on the defensive end. The seven-foot giant can be a real crowd pleaser, so expect a monster jam or two to have a sold-out O2 on their feet.

The Knicks have also recently been boosted by the return from injury of Amar'e Stoudemire, with 22-year-old guard Iman Shumpert expected to join him back on the court on Thursday night. Both will have a significant impact over the season, and Coach Mike Woodson will be delighted to see them back in regular action, especially with point guard Raymond Felton ruled out until later this month.

Detroit Pistons

As the designated 'home team' for this clash, the Detroit Pistons will be fully focused on the task in hand when they arrive in London.

Head coach Lawrence Frank revealed there is great enthusiasm amongst his troops, admitting he is looking forward to playing at the O2, but made no secret that his side are here to win bemoaning the fact they'll have one less game at the Palace.

Their overall form would suggest it will be difficult for the 2004 champions, who cross the Atlantic with a poor 14-24 record and while I think they'll put on a decent show, I don't expect them to come away with the win.

However, prior to the defeat to Utah on Saturday, the Pistons went on a run of five wins in six, and will look to return to that sort of form when they take on the Knicks.

What they do have in their favour though, are several individuals who have experience of playing internationally. The likes of Jonas Jerebko, Austin Daye and Will Bynum have all previously plied their trade in Europe, and will want to make a splash on their return.

The Pistons hopes of winning will very much depend on a duo who have started every game this season so far. Leading the scoring charts are centre Greg Monroe and guard Brandon Knight, who when on their game are difficult to stop.

At just 21 years of age, Knight has emerged as a real talent, equally capable of drilling three pointers from down-town as he is of driving to the basket with an explosive turn of pace. Monroe loves to attack the basket, using height and strength to dominate the boards in rebounding and will surely provide a few dunks to boot.

Tayshaun Prince, in his 10th year with the Pistons, moved up to eighth place in their all-time scoring list earlier this season and will also play a vital role should they hope to pull off a win, along with rookie Andre Drummond.

However, it is Monroe who tops the lot, averaging 15.5 points-per-game and providing a great return in defensive rebounds. It all points toward an intriguing battle between himself and Chandler.

Former Pistons and Brit star Ben Gordon would have savoured an opportunity to return to the city of his birth, but unfortunately for him and the home crowd, he was traded to the Charlotte Bobcats last summer.

Nevertheless, it promises to be a highly entertaining clash between these two, as the NBA action looks set to return to London with a bang.

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