The Knicks are headed down I-95 for an interdivisional matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Don’t look now, but the recent hot streak has the Knicks just one game out of a playoff spot. By the end of the night, New York could be in the eight-seed, but first they have to take care of business with the Sixers. New York took three out of four from Philadelphia last season, but as we all know, nothing is a guarantee with this team.
The 76ers are led by a myriad of young players. On the inside, Thaddeus Young is their go-to guy. At 6-8, 230 pounds, he creates major mismatch problems, so it’s likely we’ll see a lot of small ball from the Knicks to counteract it. Young averages 17.9 points per game and is complimented by Spencer Hawes, who is having a career year at 14.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. The Knicks will have to account for Hawes both on the block and on the perimeter.
The backcourt is the key to shutting down the Sixers. Philadelphia loves to push the pace, and have a multitude of capable ball handlers to do so with. Evan Turner is having his best season as a pro, leading the team in scoring and averaging career-highs in points and assists. His play is a little inconsistent, so even if he has an off night, the Knicks will still have to focus on shutting down the supporting cast. Rookie Michael Carter-Williams isn’t the deadliest offensive weapon, but at the same time, he can’t be completely ignored. Carter-Williams has been doing it all from day one, save for an injury bug or two, averaging 17.8 points 5.7 rebounds and 7.0 assists. He’s a pest defensively, putting up almost 3.0 steals per game, so the Knicks can’t be lazy with the ball when Carter-Williams is on the floor.
As a team, the 76ers average 102.8 points per game, good for 10th in the league. However, they give up a league-leading 111.2 per contest. The Knicks shouldn’t have trouble scoring, but if they let Philadelphia dictate te pace, it’s going to be tough sledding. Winning the turnover battle will also make life a ton easier for New York.
The real question is whether J.R. Smith will make it off the bench or not. The Knicks took down Miami without him on Thursday night, but is one game enough to make it out of Mike Woodson’s dog house? Tyson Chandler won’t be suiting up, so expect to see a lot of Kenyon Martin and Amare Stoudemire again.
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