By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. 76ers | Wells Fargo Center
When: Thursday | 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (13-22): Things have started to click for the Knicks, suddenly winners of four of their last five following Thursday's momentous win against the Miami Heat. Without Tyson Chandler (upper respiratory infection) or J.R. Smith (DNP-Coach's Decision), the Orange and Blue put together a complete team effort to surge past LeBron James and Co. Carmelo Anthony has been playing at an All-Star level all season, but recently his teammates have been stepping up. Raymond Felton dished out 14 assists against the Heat. Iman Shumpert, who had nine rebounds in Thursday's win, has elevated his game on both ends of the floor. Amar'e Stoudemire has been the beneficiary of better ball movement, finding space to work down low and thriving in his role off the bench. Andrea Bargnani is finding his spots and punishing defenses for paying too much attention to Anthony.
Chandler, Prigioni, Udrih and World Peace are all out tonight against @Sixers— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) January 11, 2014
Philadelphia (12-23): It was supposed to be a losing season for the Sixers, and after a startling 3-0 start, it has become just that. A recent four-game winning streak notwithstanding, the early success has given way to some outstanding individual performances but little in the way of winning; they rank 25th in offense and 26th in defense. There are a few young veterans left, namely Spencer Hawes (the big man who is shooting over 44 percent from 3), Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner. All three could become trade chips for new general manager Sam Hinkie. There's no doubt that Philadelphia, armed with two potential lottery picks in this upcoming draft, is looking to the future with this group under first-year coach Brett Brown. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams, the 11th pick in this year's draft, has quickly emerged as the face of the franchise and a Rookie of the Year favorite while averaging 17.7 points, 7.1 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game.
The Numbers Game
The Knicks allow the most 2-point shots in the league, at 52.9 per game.
Matchup to Watch
Raymond Felton vs. Michael Carter-Williams
Carter-Williams stands 6-foor-6, a matchup nightmare for most point guards because of his length and athleticism. Only a rookie, he's already mastered the art of playing the passing lane, averaging an NBA-best 2.72 steals per game. In fact, he leads all rookies in points, rebounds and assists, as well. Felton was aggressive against the Heat, probing to create offense for teammates and knocking down shots when left alone.
What to Look For
New York is playing its best ball of the season. In beating the like of Miami and San Antonio, Coach Mike Woodson's team has begun to play like it did last year, when unselfish basketball led to high-quality looks along the perimeter. Everyone's getting involved, and it translates to the way the team communicates on the defensive end...With Chandler ruled out for the fourth straight game, Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin will have to step up...Philly plays at the fastest pace in the league, so expect them to try to create turnovers and get up and down the floor. Only Young and Hawes have been in the league more than three seasons, so getting back in transition is a must against Philly's young legs.