In a couple of hours, the Sixers will lace 'em up and try to complete a four-game sweep of the Knicks. Standing in their way is a team led by...no one. A team which plays no defense, but has ridden a volume-over-quality approach to offense all the way to fifth-highest scoring average in the league. No small feat, considering their talent level. Tonight's game is another chance for the Sixers to work on their issues against a bad team, after the jump we'll see how they can take advantage.
The Knicks are a classic example of how a close look at stats can tell you a great deal about how to attack the team. I'm talking about two stats in particular. The first is their opponents' free throw rate. .213 is extremely low, as a matter of fact, that's the 7th best number in the league. They rank at or near the bottom in every other defensive four factors category. Seems like a good thing, right?
Well, now let's add another piece to the puzzle. The Knicks blog 2.3 shots per game, or .1 more blocks per game than Denver's Chris Andersen, who plays 19 minutes/game. Add these factors together and what does it tell you? That's right, not only are the Knicks pitiful at defending the paint, they really don't care too much about it either. It's an open path to the hoop. Beat your man and they won't block your shot, nor will they foul you to prevent a dunk or a layup.
This might not be too big of a problem if they had superior perimeter defenders who could stop penetration, but they don't. Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams should have an absolute field day driving the lane against this team. Settling for jumpers should not be an option, even if the Knicks deploy a zone. They simply don't have anyone on their roster who is ready, willing or able to stop guys on their way to the hoop.
Bernard Fernandez has a decent piece today about the differences between the Sixers' running game and the Knicks version. This is something that I think deserves more emphasis. I've heard plenty of people say you can't rely on a running game in the post season, and they point to the Suns as an example. What they don't take into account, however, is that a running game predicated on defensive stops is an entirely different animal from D'Antoni's, "Just let them score already so we can get back on offense," philosophy.
This should be a fun game to watch, but keep you eyes open for that fundamental difference between the teams' philosophies. It makes all the difference in the world.
Tip is at 7:30, I'll be right here so if you're watching, stuck at work, bored or just want to make fun of Nate Robinson join me in the comments.
I'm going to stray from the Sixers for a moment and say that if true, this is just horrible, horrible news. Dawkins in another jersey? I'm sick.