The last time the Sixers played the Knicks in Philly, the roles were reversed. The Sixers were looking up at the Knicks in the standings, they needed to make up ground, they needed a win, badly. They were hungry. Let's take a look at how that game worked out in anticipation of tonight's showdown for sixth.
In a game the Sixers pretty much had to have
, they leaned heavily on their two veterans, and did they ever deliver. Elton Brand turned in his best game of the season, finishing with 33 points and 16 boards. Andre Iguodala settled into his point-forward role in a big way, scoring 18 and handing out 16 dimes to 0 turnovers. The Sixers used a huge first quarter and strong finish to seal the 2-point win.
So what lessons can we learn from this prior meeting? Well, not that many. The Knicks were a different team back then. They didn't have Melo, they did have some size in the middle. Their point guard was mobile. They were able to play Landry Fields along with their point guard. Their backup PG was Toney Douglas, not Anthony Johnson. They had depth and shooting on the wings then, now they have scoring.
One thing really hasn't changed, though. Elton Brand still has a tremendous offensive advantage. He's going to need to show up, and he's going to need to show up in a big way which is a lot to ask of the big man on the second night of a back-to-back.
Brand played 36 minutes in last night's loss to the Celtics. Amare played 36 for the Knicks in their win over the Raptors. Other than those guys, no one was really extended beyond 30 minutes, so no advantage either way in terms of rest.
There are plenty of new matchups, favorable and otherwise. Plenty of new wrinkles each coach can throw at the other, but if you boil it down, there's really one matchup on each end of the floor that could determine the winner. Brand's offense with Stoudemire, Jeffries and Shawne Williams guarding him, and Igudoala's defense on Melo. In terms of how Collins handles the minutes, I don't think the Sixers can afford to let Melo play a single minute without Iguodala on him. Last night, Pierce was a non-factor until he got to work against Nocioni, then he found a rhythm. You can't allow that to happen with Melo.
Much like it was 30 games ago, I think this one rests on the shoulders of the vets.