By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Sixers | Wells Fargo Center
When: Saturday | 7:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: As Carmelo Anthony fought through a cold-shooting start to notch his 27th straight 20-point game, the Knicks snapped an 11-game losing streak in Boston on Thursday night. It was a potentially momentous win for the Orange and Blue, as it came against the type of hard-nosed defensive team that has given them fits recently. As Amar'e Stoudemire said, it was a total team effort, in which everyone contributed. Minutes are on their way up for Iman Shumpert and Stoudemire, and the Knicks are expecting starting point guard Raymond Felton to make his return from a broken pinkie finger.
Philadelphia: The Sixers are a team that has not lived up to expectations as they prepare to meet the Knicks for the third time this season. Supposed star and franchise cornerstone Andrew Bynum has yet to make his Philadelphia debut because of knee issues, and that's been a significant factor in their 17-25 start. Point guard Jrue Holiday has turned in an All-Star campaign, however, and do-it-all guard Evan Turner has begun to shake the "bust" label after being picked number two overall.
Last Time Out
New York: J.R. Smith shot 3-for-16 but came up with the big 3-pointer and a couple of defensive stops to ice an 89-86 win over the Celtics on Thursday.
Philadelphia: The Sixers were unable to slow the Bucks, who protected their home court with a 110-102 win.
The Numbers Game
Both teams protect the ball: The Knicks rank 1st in turnover rate (10.7%) and the Sixers are 3rd (12.4%).
Match-up to Watch
Raymond Felton vs. Jrue Holiday
Assuming Felton makes his return as expected, it will be a sight for Knicks fans' sore eyes. While the team has managed to hang onto its place atop the Atlantic Division, his absence has solidified his importance to the entire roster, especially on the offensive end. As we wrote a little while back, with him out, Coach Woodson was forced to juggle lineups, play guys out of position, and generally scramle to re-create the things that worked so well to start the year. He'll make his return against one of the best young point guards in the game, Jrue Holiday, who has taken "the next step" and begun to realize his enormous potential on both ends of the floor.
What to Look For
Felton's return is on the top of this list from the Knicks perspective. Will his insertion into the starting lineup immediately jumpstart what has been an up-and-down offensive attack since he's been out? Will spacing instantly return and the high pick-and-roll with Tyson Chandler shred the Sixers' struggling defense from the opening tip? On defense, will the Knicks return to the zone that gave them some success against the Celtics? The Sixers are 28th in offensive efficiency, averaging 101.7 points per 100 possessions. While Evan Turner has developed into a threat from three, the Knicks would seem to be catching Philly when it is down. This matchup would seem to favor the road team.