Philadelphia 76ers vs. New York Knicks: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
Philadelphia is looking to build off of last season in which they made it to the conference semifinals as a No. 8 seed and took the Boston Celtics to a deciding seventh game. They upped their chances of getting back to the postseason by acquiring Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson in the Dwight Howard trade.
The Knicks, on the other hand, have more on the line.
New York has showed slight improvement the past couple of years, but inconsistent play has led them to low playoff seeding and early exits from the postseason. Now that Mike D'Antoni's heavy reliance on the pick-and-roll is out and Mike Woodson's isolation game is in, everything is set for the Knicks to have a rebirth season.
However, both teams are shorthanded as Bynum and Amar'e Stoudemire will not be playing, leaving the Knicks and Sixers without a great deal of size.
With some of the top men out, the stage is set for this game to be an absolute defensive battle.
Time: Sunday, November 4th, 12:00 p.m., EST
Records: Philadelphia (1-0) vs. New York (0-0)
Betting Line: Not available
Injuries: Amar'e Stoudemire (knee), J.R. Smith (Achilles), Marcus Camby (calf), Tyson Chandler (knee), Iman Shumpert (knee), Andrew Bynum (knee), Kwame Brown (calf), Maalik Wayns (head)
Key Storyline: New York and Philly Look To Establish Selves as Eastern Elite
Though it's still early in the season, both the Knicks and Sixers have a lot riding on this game.
Philadelphia got off to a great start last season and held first place in the Atlantic Division for a good amount of time. Unfortunately, they collapsed and just barely made the playoffs as a No. 8 seed. Were it not for Derrick Rose hurting his knee, they almost surely would have been eliminated in the first round.
The Knicks, on the other hand, are looking to build off of last season's momentum. After the resignation of Mike D'Antoni, assistant Mike Woodson stepped in, and the team immediately responded to him, going 18-6 to close the season.
New York would suffer another early playoff exit for the second consecutive season, but they still managed to get a win against the Miami Heat. It was their first postseason win since 2001.
Both teams look a lot better entering 2012-13 and are clearly ready to contend for a title immediately, but they have to face each other in the regular season and battle in the standings first. Either way, prepare for intensity.
Key Matchup: Raymond Felton vs. Jrue Holiday
Sixers coach Doug Collins coaches an offense that is all about team play, with no one player outshining the other. The leader of this system is point guard Jrue Holiday, who just signed a four-year, $41 million extension.
The former UCLA Bruin has good size for his position at 6'4", and his game has really developed in each of his three NBA seasons. A scoring point guard, he drives hard to the basket, has a decent three-point shot and makes life difficult for many opposing players with his defense.
On the Knicks' end, Holiday may have met his match in the form of Raymond Felton, who plays a very similar game.
Felton is smaller than Holiday at 6'1", nor is he as good an athlete. However, like his younger opponent, he too is a scoring point guard who has a respectable three-point shot and plays tough defense.
The only real mark against the former Tar Heel is his conditioning, as he was admittedly out of shape playing for the Portland Trail Blazers last season. He is clearly in game shape now, but it's still a cause for concern considering how 2011-12 was the worst season of his career.
Either way, given the great similarities in their approaches to the game, this is going to be like a chess match on hardwood. Whoever can break the most ankles wins it, and there is really no way to tell who has the advantage.
X-Factor: Carmelo Anthony
No surprises here, fans. With Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert out of the lineup, it's all up to Carmelo Anthony to carry the Knicks to victory.
The lack of offense is a bit unsettling, despite the fact that the Anthony will also have Steve Novak, J.R. Smith and others helping him, but he cannot rely on them to help pick up the slack. The fact of the matter is that this is a big game for the Knicks, and if Anthony struggles, it's going to be hard to walk away with the win.
Anthony needs to establish from the opening tip that he is the alpha dog on the Knicks. He needs to be ready and more than willing to take the final shot, to take the shots that nobody else wants and not be afraid to get to the free throw line.
The same can be said for him on the defensive side, where he needs to be a force on the glass. As good as Tyson Chandler, Marcus Camby and/or Kurt Thomas can be in this department, they cannot be expected to shoulder the entire load.
Anthony may only be 6'8", but he is so big and so athletic at 230 pounds that he is a master at creating mismatches and crashing the boards so that the Knicks have every advantage possible against their division rival.
Long story short, if Anthony falls, so does the entire Knicks team.
Though this game has the potential to be pretty close, it's still crystal clear as to who the better team is. While the Sixers have a great deal of youth and depth, their lack of a star who can step forward in the clutch and take control is going to kill them just as it did last season.
More importantly, with the exception of glorified shooter Jason Richardson, the lack of a solid veteran leader hampers the team and prevents young guys like Evan Turner from improving as a whole. This is where the absence of Andrew Bynum will really start to hurt.
Who will win?
In the end, the Knicks' isolation game and tough-as-nails defense is going to make mince meat out of Philadelphia. Granted, this is just one game and the Sixers could easily win the next meeting, but the Knicks just have too much size this time around and will shut down a smaller Philadelphia team.
It won't be the worst type of blowout, but the lead will be big enough that the Sixers will know that they just got taken to school by the shorthanded Knicks.
New York Knicks 99, Philadelphia 76ers 84
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