After three straight victories, the Knicks look to continue their winning ways against the Atlantic Division leading Philadelphia 76ers. With the season shortened to 66 games, these division matchups become even more pivotal. The two teams split the regular season series last year 2-2 with the Knicks coming away with the final two meetings.
The Lowdown – The Knicks may have caught a bit of a break in this game. The 76ers are playing their last game in a back-to-back-to-back series. The Knicks will begin a three games in four nights stint. The Knicks have won three in a row, and are giving up only 87.7 points per game during that stretch. In fact the team currently has a defensive rating of 102.0, good enough to place them in the top half of the league (14th). The 76ers are winners of their last six, and with a win over the Knicks they will have their longest win streak since Jan 6-17, 2009.
The Sixers have five guys averaging over double figures points per game in Lou Williams, Jrue Holliday, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, and Spencer Hawes. They rank 1st in SRS (Simple Rating System) which takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule. In the same category, the Knicks rank 23rd. The Sixers also rank 1st in defensive rating and 3rd in offensive rating. They win with their balance and depth on offense, as well as their ferocity on defense.
Key Matchup – Carmelo Anthony vs. Andre Iguodala – In Melo’s career he has averaged 26.4 points per game while shooting 54.7% ts% against Iguodala. Iggy is a strong defender with quick hands and respectable lateral movement. I would love to see Melo play more bully ball and not settle for jumpers. He outweighs Iggy by 23 pounds and a double team should be administered immediately by Doug Collins every time Melo catches it down low. Such a double team should improve Anthony’s ability to find his teammates for easy scores. Melo’s assist percentage this year is 27.5%, which leads the team. I’ve been impressed with his willingness to hit the open man this year instead of forcing shots.
X-Factor – Tyson Chandler. Chandler’s offensive rating is 152 and defensive rating is 99, both team highs. He’s the biggest reason why the Knicks are 14th in defensive rating as a whole. Defending the rim is key, as teams will look to attack the defensive ineptitude of Melo and Stoudemire. The Sixers run the pick and roll often, featuring versatile big men rolling off the pick. Chandler will have to communicate effectively for the Knicks to cover the P & R.
This is an early season statement game, the Knicks have to come out with an overload of fire and desire on both ends of the floor. I had to throw some sort of Clydeism somewhere!