The NBA returns to London as the Washington Wizards look to keep their Eastern Conference playoff hopes on track as they take on the New York Knicks at The O2.
After a disparaging start to the season, the Wizards (18-26) finally appear to have turned a corner, just in time for their appearance at The O2.
Since point guard John Wall was ruled out for the season by a heel injury at the end of December, the other half of the Wizards’ All-Star backcourt, Bradley Beal, has carried the team with the best stretch of his career.
While three wins from their last five isn’t a spectacular number, the fact that all of those games came against elite opposition was hugely encouraging for the organisation.
Live NBA: New York @ Washington
The Wizards must now prove they can motivate themselves to take care of business against a team they’re expected to beat, which will be vital if they are to close the two-and-a-half game gap to the final playoff spot in the East.
Just two wins in their last 19 outings has seen much of the early-season optimism that surrounded the Knicks (10-33) disappear.
Get Sky Sports USA
Want to watch the NFL or NBA on the Sky Sports USA channel? Upgrade here
While there was no expectation that the Knicks would challenge for a playoff berth this season, their recent struggles have been disappointing, but on the plus side are improving their hopes of drafting a top asset come the summer.
Coach David Fizdale will hope that the opportunity to play on a global stage in London will see his players elevate their level and bring some joy to the franchise’s considerable international fan base.
Key Battle: Kevin Knox vs Trevor Ariza
Kevin Knox is looking to build on a career-high in his previous game
It will be a case of rookie versus veteran at small forward as Knicks prospect Kevin Knox matches up against the vastly experienced Trevor Ariza.
Knox, the ninth pick in last year’s draft, has been one of the bright spots of the Knicks’ season with his athletic ability and solid three-point shooting.
The 19-year-old should be full of confidence coming off the back of a career-high 31 points in Monday’s narrow loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Trevor Ariza has begun to find his form from three-point range
It will require a strong effort for Knox to produce similar numbers against the elite defensive skills of Ariza, who is beginning to find his form after being traded to the Wizards in early December.
The 33-year-old was crucial in the Houston Rockets’ run to the Western Conference finals last season, but struggled after a summer move to the Phoenix Suns.
With 10 made three-pointers in his last two games, the Wizards will be looking to get Ariza going once more.
Last time out
Highlights of the Philadelphia 76ers’ visit to the New York Knicks in week 13 of the NBA
Highlights of the Toronto Raptors’ visit to the Washington Wizards in week 13 of the NBA
Thursday night's fixtures
- New York Knicks @ Washington Wizards, 8pm
- Sacramento Kings @ Charlotte Hornets, 12am
- Philadelphia 76ers @ Indiana Pacers, 12am
- Phoenix Suns @ Toronto Raptors, 12:30am
- Chicago Bulls @ Denver Nuggets, 2am
- Los Angeles Lakers @ Oklahoma City Thunder, 2:30am
16.4 – The number of turnovers the Wizards have generated from their opponents on average this season, which is good enough for second in the NBA. The Knicks must take good care of the ball if they are to have a chance of triumphing.
One to watch (Knicks): Tim Hardaway Jr.
Tim Hardaway Jr. has recovered from a hamstring injury in time to play in London
The Knicks’ leading scorer this season has overcome a hamstring strain to make it to London.
While the Knicks may have paid over the odds when signing Hardaway to a $71m, four-year contract in the summer of 2017, in the absence of Kristaps Porzingis, he remains their most potent offensive weapon.
The 26-year-old’s production has slowed after an impressive start to the season, but he will no doubt be keen to show his value going forward on a big night for the franchise.
One to watch (Wizards): Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal has carried the Wizards' offense since John Wall went down injured
John Wall’s injury has given Bradley Beal the opportunity to prove what many suspected – that he is one of the premier shooting guards in the league.
With control of the team’s offense, Beal has averaged 27.8 points, 5.4 assists and 4.6 rebounds as the Wizards have won five of their eight games since Wall was ruled out.
Beal recorded just the second triple-double of his career in Sunday’s creditable double-overtime loss to the Toronto Raptors, amassing 43 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds – thankfully he’s had plenty of time to gather his energy for this contest.
How to Watch
Radzi Chinyanganya will host Sky Sports live coverage of the NBA London Live game
Sky Sports USA is your home of the NBA throughout the season but on Thursday night Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Mix join the party – all the build-up and action is live from 7.45pm.
We also have a new-look presenting line-up as Blue Peter’s Radzi Chinyanganya hosts our coverage live from The O2.
Radzi will have three-time NBA champion Bruce Bowen for company in the studio and, among other things, you can expect a chat with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
Former NBA players John Amaechi and Bruce Bowen look ahead to Thursday’s game
As well as Sky Go, our website will be the place to follow if you are on the move. Our pages are now the UK’s home of the NBA and if you haven’t already done so, get us bookmarked.
On Thursday evening, our live blog will bring you all the action with rolling updates, highlights and interviews supporting our live TV coverage and we want your involvement along the way as well.
Want to watch the NFL or NBA on the Sky Sports USA channel but don’t have Sky Sports? Get the Sky Sports Action and Arena pack, click here.