The only thing standing between the Sixers and a seven-game win streak is the New York Knicks. This will be the Sixers fifth game in six nights, while the Knicks had yesterday off, but there are no excuses this season. It's tough for everyone. Tie our sneakers extra tight and get ready to battle.
Apparently, Spencer Hawes made the trip to NYC with the team, but no word yet on whether he'll be available for the game. Hawes isn't particularly well suited to help defend against the Knicks' bigs, but it would hurt to go into the game with such limited options at the five. I have a feeling they'll play it safe with Spence.
The Knicks are essentially a two-man team on offense, and a one-man team on defense. Chandler is a very good center, but pulling him away from the hoop will limit his impact on the game. My main concern with him on the offensive end is offensive boards and lobs. Where the Sixers have a big advantage against the Knicks that most teams don't is they have a guy who they can put on an island with Melo who can handle him. That's Iguodala's only responsibility tonight. Stick to Melo like glue, harass him all night long. Make driving such a pain in the ass that he just decides to settle for long jumpers all night. If, at the end of the night, Melo scores 25 points on his 25 shots, that's a win for the Sixers.
The problem on that end of the floor is Amare. The Sixers don't have anyone capable of guarding him. That's just a fact. Their defensive strength lies on the perimeter. The good news is the Sixers have that strength on the perimeter, and they can use that strength to stop Stoudemire by not even letting him get his hands on the ball. I took a long look at Iman Shumpert on Synergy last night, and if the Knicks are planning on letting him run the point tonight, I expect the Sixers will be able to force about 20 turnovers and generally prevent the Knicks from running much more than isolations for Melo with any consistency.
Shumpert has an extremely questionable handle, he's loose with the ball and tries to be overly-fancy with his pass, the results are worse than mixed. The Sixers need to press Shumpert when he's running the point. Pick him up in the back court sometimes, right at midcourt other times. If they run a pick-and-roll, double hard. He's not a point, he's going to make mistakes and the Knicks offense isn't going to run well if they can't get the ball down low to Stoudemire. The Knicks other options at the point aren't much better in terms of getting the offense initiated.
I'm expecting big things out of Jrue and it's my great preference that we see Turner guarding the point whenever Jrue isn't. Lou can spend his time on Landry Fields and Toney Douglass when he's off the ball. The Sixers need to apply pressure at the point all night. If they're lucky, they'll try to use Melo as a point-forward, which means Iguodala will eat him alive.
This is a winnable game. A very winnable game. The Knicks are not a good team. They have one very, very good player, one exceptionally talented natural scorer and a defensive center capable of changing a game on the defensive end, but the other pieces don't fit and they're missing several key ingredients. Avoid the slow start, keep the crowd out of the game, and keep the pressure on. By the time the second half comes around, the Knicks will fold.
If you're in the NYC area and headed to the game, Rich and I will be there. Let us know and maybe we can meet up at the half.
The tip is at 7:30. Game thread will be up around 5:30.