For the second time in NBA history, a meaningful game will be played in London.
On Thursday afternoon, the New York Knicks will play the Detroit Pistons at the O2 Arena in England. The contest will tip off at 3 p.m. ET. The game be seen in the U.S. on NBATV and MSG.
Both teams have had several days off in preparation for traveling to Europe. New York last played on Sunday when they beat the New Orleans Hornets. Detroit hasn’t played since Saturday when they lost to the Utah Jazz.
Despite the novelty of the game, Knicks head coach Mike Woodson says the team won’t be distracted.
''This is not about vacation and I don't think any of us is treating it that way,” said Woodson. “This is a regular-season game. It's a game that we got to win. It’s not about vacation time. Vacation's in the summer.''
The Knicks can’t afford to treat this like any other game. After getting off to one of the best starts in franchise history, the team has come back down to earth. New York is 6-8 in its last 14 games, and has seen its lead in the Atlantic Division dwindle to just two games over the Brooklyn Nets.
Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are making their return to London from just a few months ago. The two helped Team USA win a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics.
Anthony is looking to get back on track after struggling in his past few games. He’s shooting less than 35 percent from the field in three past three contests.
The MVP candidate has struggled, while being at the center of multiple controversies. He was suspended for one game after approaching Kevin Garnett on the Boston Celtics team bus, because of a comment Garnett made during a game. Earlier this week, it was discovered that Knicks owner James Dolan had multiple Madison Square Garden employees recording his conversations during the team’s games.
Detroit needs a win in the worst way, as well. They are 14-24, and on the outside of the playoff race.
Greg Monroe has been the Pistons best player all year, leading them with 15.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. He doesn’t think playing in another country will affect his teammates.
''At the end of the day it's competition,'' said Monroe. ''This is a game we have to take very seriously. They're a very good team; we understand it's a business trip.
New York dominated the one matchup between the two teams this year. The Knicks put up 121 points on Detroit, who is currently ninth in points allowed per contest.
Since that game, New York has added a few key players that have returned from injury. Amare Stoudemire came back on New Year’s Day from knee surgery. Now, it appears that Iman Shumpert is set to make his season debut on Thursday. The guard played a key role for the Knicks as a rookie last year, but suffered a torn ACL in the playoffs.
The Knicks are expected to come back to the United States with a win. They are 5.5-point favorites at most Las Vegas sportsbooks.
Prediction: New York 102, Detroit 88