sport

Knicks and Detroit in capital clash

The New York Knicks appear to be on a fast-track to the NBA play-offs as tney take on Detroit Pistons at the O2 Arena.

The New York Knicks appear to be on a fast-track to the NBA play-offs this season - but they will take a diversion through London on Thursday night to face the Detroit Pistons at the O2 Arena.

Knicks pair Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler will be back in the building where they helped the United States to Olympic gold last summer, as the NBA brings another regular-season game to Britain.

The Knicks arrive in London as the Atlantic Division leaders with a 24-13 record but they have no margin for error, with the rebranded and revitalised Brooklyn Nets breathing down their neck as the Big Apple's newest sporting rivalry enjoys a fascinating first season.

With all of that going on, the Knicks could be forgiven for seeing a transatlantic trip as something of a distraction, but coach Mike Woodson insists it is just the opposite.

"If I thought that, then when the commissioner called and gave us this opportunity to come over and play I would never have agreed to that," he said.

"I think as an organisation, to be able to go outside your country and expand your sport, to me it helps everybody. We have to travel a little bit further but this is an important game on our schedule."

Anthony is the unquestioned star of this particular show. During his last trip to London he broke the United States' single-game scoring record, pouring in 37 points during their record-book shredding 156-73 rout of Nigeria (albeit not at the O2, but the Olympic Basketball Arena).

And he has kept on firing in the NBA this season, ranking as the second highest scorer behind Kobe Bryant.

For a Pistons team struggling in the Central Division at 14-24, containing Anthony is a daunting assignment.

"Carmelo is a great scorer he's a guy that can put together a 40-point game like its nothing," said Detroit coach Lawrence Frank.

"He's a professional scorer, that's what we call him, he can score in a bunch of different ways: he can shoot the three, he can score off the dribble, he can score in the post.

"He's a constant threat but the Knicks are a strong team and we have to be ready for all of them."

While the Knicks have come out of the slump that rendered the 2000s a lost decade, the Pistons have been in rebuilding mode since losing the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals to the Boston Celtics.

This season's roster sports no less than five rookies as the process continues, but according to Knicks guard Steve Novak that makes them no less dangerous.

"They've been up and down, but they've definitely got weapons," he said.

"Guys like Brandon Knight, Andrew Drummond, they've got a lot of young guys who are playing well.

"Young guys are always sleepers because they can do really great things. But we'll be ready for them."

There is no question the Knicks are the favourites for tomorrow night's game, and with the way Anthony and his team-mates are playing, there is every chance London will be watching the next NBA champions.

"Do we have an opportunity to win a title this year? Absolutely," Woodson said.

"If we stay healthy and play at a level that I think we can play at we'll put ourselves in that position.

"But first we've got to play the Pistons and we'll deal with that first and foremost."