In their first visit
to Madison Square Garden this season, the Sixers came away with a hard-fought loss on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back. The game was pre-Linsanity, both teams looked different back then, but there's one number from that game we shouldn't ignore.
In that game (a 79-85 loss), the Sixers outscored the Knicks 34-11 with JTI on the floor. They were +23 in those 16 minutes, -29 in the other 33. This afternoon, the Knicks will have to contend with JTI for long stretches, they're going to have to put Jeremy Lin on one of those guys. Baron Davis is going to have to guard one of them. The mismatches will be there all night, it's up to the Sixers to recognize them and attack them.
On the defensive end, the best thing to do is get Carmelo Anthony fired up early. Put Iguodala on him, let Iguodala get in his head, because when Melo decides he's going to make a statement, the Knicks offense sputters and fails. When he's isolating on the wing, dribbling for 12 seconds to get a tough 20-footer, you've won whether he hits the shot or not. Put Iguodala on an island with Melo and dare him to carry the Knicks to a win. That keeps the ball out of Jeremy Lin's hands. That takes the pick and roll and Novak threes off the table. That makes the other four guys irrelevant on the offensive end of the floor. Let Melo try to show everyone what a big star he is while his team continues to sink.
The Knicks went on that hot streak because their defense was so much better with Amare and Melo out of the lineup. They remain an extremely dangerous team right now because D'Antoni can go to a defense-first lineup consisting mostly of bench guys, and give the ball to Lin to create on the offensive end. Several times in this four-game losing streak, the Knicks' bench has gone on huge runs fueled by Lin and their defense only to see them fall short when they went back to their starters. It's going to be important for the Sixers to take care of the ball when New York's second unit comes in. Shumpert may be a joke of an offensive player, but he's very good on the defensive end. That goes for most of the guys off the Knicks' bench with the exception of Novak and Harrelson, who basically stand out behind the three point line and wait for a chance to heave shots.
Dei Lynam reported last night that Thad would get the start if Tyson Chandler didn't start for the Knicks. It looks like Chandler is going to give it a go, so we probably won't get to see the closing time lineup right from the opening tip, which is a shame.
48 minutes of energy. Take care of the ball. Pressure the hell out of Lin. Encourage Baron Davis to chuck threes with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. Bait Melo into hero shots. Keep Chandler off the offensive glass. Really just the first thing on that list is all that's needed to come away with a win, but still a worthwhile list. Most importantly, kick the Knicks when they're down.
The tip is at noon. I'll be at the game, so you guys are on your own in the game thread. Keep it civil. And if anyone watching at home could send me a screen shot of the box score at halftime it would be much appreciated.
Prediction: PHI 107, NYK 95