In the NBA, home-and-homes are unpredictable.
Whenever two teams are tasked with playing each other on back-to-back nights, the results are often surprising. The teams we watch play one night won't necessarily be the same ones we see play the next.
That makes matchups of such forms extremely compelling—and there are no exceptions here.
One day after the New York Knicks throttled the Philadelphia 76ers 100-84 in the Big Apple, the two teams head into the City of Brotherly Love, with Jrue Holiday and company looking to settle the score.
Will Carmelo Anthony and the suddenly fluid Knicks fall flat in their second straight bout against the Sixers, or will New York continue to roll, beating Philadelphia on its own turf for a third straight victory?
Time: Monday, November 5th, 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: NBA League Pass
Records: New York Knicks (2-0), Philadelphia 76ers (1-1)
Betting Line: Sixers -4
Injuries (via CBSSports.com)
- Marcus Camby (calf), questionable
- Iman Shumpert (knee), out
- Amar'e Stoudemire (knee), out
- Kwame Brown (calf), probable
- Andrew Bynum (knee), doubtful
- Jason Richardson (ankle), questionable
Key Storyline: Are the Knicks for Real?
One could argue that New York remains decimated by injuries, and they'd probably be right. One could also argue, though, that the Knicks are plagued by age and fragility, and they'd be undeniably correct.
That's what makes New York's 2-0 start, well, startling.
It's not just that the Knicks defeated the Miami Heat. Every team operates on adrenaline from time to time.
What's most intriguing is New York has dominated in both of their victories, winning by an average of 18 points, against two playoff-bound teams.
That's hardly normal for the Heat, let alone the oldest team in NBA history.
This has left us to ponder whether or not these first two showings are for real.
Will the Knicks continue to hoist up over 30 threes per game and knock down 47.6 percent of them? Is Carmelo Anthony finally developing into the two-way leader we always expected him to be? Or have the first two games of the season been a fortunate mirage, an elaborate facade that will taper off in Philadelphia or later on?
Let's find out.
Key Matchup: Raymond Felton, PG, Knicks vs. Jrue Holiday, PG, 76ers
If there was a bright spot in Philadelphia's loss to New York, it was Holiday.
The newly signed point guard torched the Knicks for 27 points and seven assists on 61.1-percent shooting, knocking down five of his six three-point attempts.
Though Philadelphia was just minus-two with him on the floor, he was the closest thing to an advantage that they had.
Yes, Holiday had six turnovers, but he also proved to be dominant when attacking and kicking the ball out, as well as capable of knocking down a barrage of three-pointers.
If the Knicks wish to walk out of Philly still undefeated, they'll need to find a way to contain Holiday.
That brings us to Felton.
Though Felton shot 50 percent from the field in New York's most recent victory, he tallied just 11 points and one assist. Anthony or not, this cannot happen again.
Felton also struggled to contain Holiday, often losing him in the exciting chaos that was the point guard's court navigation.
Should New York's floor general put up a similar stat line to the one he did against Miami while limiting Holiday's offensive impact, the Knicks will be much more likely to rattle off a third straight win.
Jason Kidd, PG, Knicks
As I previously noted, Felton disappeared in New York's romping of Philadelphia, but Kidd didn't.
Through two games, Kidd has averaged 12.5 points and 4.5 assists on 53.8-percent shooting, including a 50-percent clip from beyond the arc.
In a rotation where he and Felton find themselves playing together at opening tip, he has been asked to shoulder most of the "true" playmaking responsibilities. Yet he has also shouldered the scoring burden as well.
If Felton nearly disappears again, the Knicks will need Kidd to continue to step up.
Even if Felton should return to form, though, Kidd's added punch will be a welcome occurrence, as his continued success is likely to signify a Knicks victory.
Nick Young, SG, Sixers
There's a strong chance Philadelphia will be down Richardson, meaning a capable scorer must step up.
Meet Mr. Young.
Though Doug Collins could opt to go big and throw Dorell Wright into the starting lineup, Young's offensive efficiency—in whatever role he assumes—is of the utmost importance to the Sixers.
He shot 20 percent from the field in New York, putting up just five points, a far cry from the scoring clinics he put on in the preseason.
For Philly to have a shot at winning down both Bynum and Richardson, Young will have to be the player he was in October, not the one we've seen in November.
J.R. Smith, SG, Knicks
If New York's parade of three-pointers is to continue, Smith needs to keep knocking them down.
We all know Novak and Kidd are going to knock down at least 40 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc, but the rest of the Knicks are wild cards—none more wild than Smith.
The tumultuous shooting guard is averaging 15.5 points through two games, shooting an astounding 66.7 percent from behind the rainbow.
I'm not saying he needs to knock down three-pointers at such a rate continuously—though it would be nice—but New York needs him to still score efficiently.
If he can do that, it takes a lot of pressure off 'Melo, while ensuring the Knicks have the best possible chance at snagging a victory.
Spencer Hawes, C, Sixers
Much like Philadelphia, New York remains depleted in the low post.
Unlike the Knicks, though, the Sixers have a string of capable post scorers, none more important than Hawes in Bynum's absence.
Tyson Chandler is an instrumental defender, but Hawes has to force him out of his comfort zone, varying his shot attempts between the inside and out to ensure he can have a big night.
He'll also have to continue to excel at rim protection. He has five blocks through two games, and going up against the current second-worst shot-blocking team in the league, his success there is vital to Philadelphia's cause.
Because when you're facing a team as hot as the Knicks, every advantage, no matter how minor, can make a world of difference.
Prediction: Knicks 98, Sixers 93
Though it's just their third game of the season, the Knicks are entering uncharted territory.
They've been an impressive group to watch thus far, but there's no denying that age and fatigue could play a factor in the year's first back-to-back.
Unlike their first two outings, the Knicks will struggle to reach 100 points and likely won't blow out an opponent they went up against less than 36 hours ago.
That said, New York's momentum is nearly unstoppable right now. Everyone is playing defense—including both Anthony and Novak—and the team is playing unselfish basketball on offense, dishing out a combined 22.5 assists per contest.
Throw in a reeling Sixers team that is still searching for an identity without Bynum, and one that may be down a solid veteran in Richardson, and this is a victory the Knicks should be able to eke out.
Tired legs and all.