The New York Knicks continue their brief American Revolution Tour on January 26, when they will visit the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. New York is coming off a big road win against the Boston Celtics on January 24, while the Sixers have lost three of four and just want to get back into a groove.
New York and Philadelphia have faced off twice this season, with New York sweeping a home-and-home on November 4 and 5. Philadelphia may have cooled off following a solid start, but that won't stop this young and feisty team from putting in a strong effort to take down its Atlantic Division rival.
Moreover, the crowd is definitely going to play a role in this matchup. New York and Philadelphia are two cities that, at least in sports, detest each other. From the Knicks and the Sixers to the Rangers and the Flyers, this rivalry nearly matches the intensity of New York vs. Boston.
This game is also significant for the Knicks, which, according to Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York, could get starting point guard Raymond Felton back. The team has struggled without him, going 6-8 in his absence.
Whether or not the former Tar Heel is able to play, expect this game to be intense from start to finish. The Knicks have won three of four and will want to continue their hot streak, but Philadelphia will want to fight past the hurdles of youth and inexperience in hopes of pulling off an upset.
Time: Saturday, January 26th, 7 p.m. ET
TV: MSG, Comcast Sportsnet (CSN)
Records: New York Knicks (26-14) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (17-25)
Betting Line: Not available as of Friday, January 25, 8:28 a.m. ET
Injuries: Rasheed Wallace (foot, out), Marcus Camby (foot, out), Raymond Felton (finger, probable), Andrew Bynum (knee, out), Kwame Brown (personal, day-to-day), Jason Richardson (knee, day-to-day)
Key Storyline: Can Sixers Pull Off Upset Against Balanced Knicks?
The last time that the Knicks and the Sixers faced off in Philadelphia, it was on November 5 and the second half of a home-and-home. After losing the game the day before at Madison Square Garden, the Sixers got off to a solid start in this contest and went on a 9-0 run.
However, the Knicks got it together and pulled off a 110-88 victory thanks to 21 points from Carmelo Anthony. Raymond Felton also chipped in 16 points and eight assists, and seven New York players finished in double figures that night.
But that may not be the case for Round 3. Felton may or may not play in this game, and even if he does, there's a chance head coach Mike Woodson will use him conservatively.
This means that shooter Jason Kidd could see a majority of the minutes at the point, and his declining distribution abilities could provide an opening for Philadelphia to step in and take control of the game.
Of course, that won't at all be easy. Iman Shumpert and Amar'e Stoudemire have returned to the lineup since the teams last faced each other, and both men make the Knicks a deeper and stronger team, especially Stoudemire.
Philadelphia is young and inexperienced and has struggled to score points this season, so facing a balanced Knicks squad could prove to be too much for the Sixers.
This means that Philadelphia will have to rely on pure adrenaline to bring home the win. Some rowdy fans will definitely give them some momentum, but it all boils down to whether or not the team can make the baskets that matter.
Against a strong Knicks defense, that is easier said than done.
Key Matchup: Carmelo Anthony vs. Thaddeus Young
Carmelo Anthony is back at power forward where he belongs, and he can now continue his MVP-caliber season. The former Syracuse star currently ranks third in the league with 29.1 points per game and has also done a fine job in averaging 6.1 rebounds and shooting 41 percent from three-point range.
However, Anthony has struggled over his past five games. He has averaged 29.8 points over that stretch, but shot just under 40 percent from the field and made only a third of his shots from long range. Against Philadelphia, he will need to be in full 'Melo mode and do it all, from driving the lane to taking a step back and creating off the dribble.
That isn't going to be easy against Thaddeus Young. Though both men are about the same size at 6'8", 235 pounds, their playing styles could not be any more different. While Anthony is a pure scorer, Young tends to focus on defense.
Young has played some fine D for the Sixers this year, despite seeming undersized for a power forward. He has averaged 14.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals on the year and has also shot 52 percent from the field.
He has also upped his effort in the rebounding department over his last five games, posting 9.4 per contest to go with 16.4 points.
Young is going to have to bring that defense hard against Anthony, forcing him to take contested jump shots and making him play the low post frequently. Anthony's shooting has been off as of late, so it is going to be up to Young to ensure that the struggles continue.
If he does so, the Knicks will lose their best offensive weapon. Against a feisty Sixers team, that could prove to be disastrous.
X-Factor: Amar'e Stoudemire
Since Andrew Bynum's knees have prevented him from playing this season, Philadelphia has been lacking in size from the start of the 2012-13 campaign. The team ranks 22nd in rebounding, and ranking 28th in points scored could have a lot to do with Philadelphia's lack of a solid interior presence.
As a result, it is critical that Amar'e Stoudemire has a great game for the Knicks and takes advantage of Philadelphia's weaknesses in the middle. The man has done a decent job coming off the bench since returning from knee surgery, averaging 11.3 points and four rebounds in 21.3 minutes over 10 games.
Stoudemire's defense is still not quite where it needs to be, as he is serving as the backup center to All-Star Tyson Chandler, but the low-post game he worked on developing over the summer is slowly starting to come out.
Even if he is coming off the bench against Philadelphia, Stoudemire needs to be in pure STAT form no matter how many minutes he plays. This means driving hard to the basket for a thunderous slam and taking an open jump shot without hesitation if the opportunity presents itself.
Stoudemire must also be strong on defense. He cannot hesitate to take a charge or fight for a rebound, even if it means getting called for a foul.
Most important of all, Stoudemire needs to be consistent in his effort. He looked so strong and focused in the Knicks' recent game against the Celtics, and he needs to bring that same energy against Philadelphia.
Otherwise, a victory for the Knicks becomes all the more difficult.
The Sixers will want this game badly, but their youth will be no match for the balanced attack of the New York Knicks. Carmelo Anthony will lead the team in scoring and will post a solid field-goal percentage in spite of Thaddeus Young's defense. J.R. Smith will start to overcome his shooting woes as well.
Who will win?
To Philadelphia's credit, the team will go on a couple of scoring runs. Jrue Holiday will continue his hot streak, and Evan Turner will serve as his dependable go-to guy. In terms of pure scoring, these two will help keep the Sixers in the game despite the lack of a consistently solid supporting cast.
However, Philadelphia's lack of size will ultimately come back to bite them. With no way of slowing down both Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire, the team will crumble in the paint as the Knicks out-rebound and out-score them en route to their fourth victory in five games.
Chandler will have a double-double, while Stoudemire will once again contributes 10-15 points off the bench to go with seven or eight rebounds. Thus, the fans in the City of Brotherly Love will watch stunned as their Sixers are defeated handily by the Knicks.
New York Knicks 104, Philadelphia 76ers 92