By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. 76ers | Madison Square Garden
When: Wednesday | 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (15-26): After winning five games in a row, the Knicks have now lost straight following Monday's 23-point loss to the Nets. Carmelo Anthony continues to produce, both as a scorer and rebounder, but his teammates have struggled with consistency; against Brooklyn, the starting backcourt of Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert combined to shoot 4 for 19 from the floor. Tyson Chandler, just four games removed from an upper respiratory infection that sidelined him for five games, says the Knicks need to execute better on both ends of the floor.
Philadelphia (13-28): The Sixers have some individual talent on their roster -- just a few weeks ago they reeled off four straight road wins against Western Conference teams -- but they are still just beginning a rebuilding effort and enter tonight having lost seven of their last eight games. They have a young franchise player in rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams (averaging 17.5 points, 6.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game), but the rest of the talent on the roster (Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner) is talked about more in terms of trade bait than building block under first-year general manager Sam Hinkie.
The Numbers Game
The Sixers play at the fastest pace in the NBA -- 99.9 possessions per 48 minutes. Not coincidentally, they also place 29th in turnovers. On the flip side, the Knicks are 29th in pace (90.3) and commit the fewest turnovers in the NBA.
Matchup to Watch
Carmelo Anthony vs. Thaddeus Young
With Kenyon Martin and Amar'e Stoudemire out with ankle injuries, Mike Woodson elected to move Andrea Bargnani to the bench and start Anthony at power forward against Brooklyn. Melo has had great success at the 4 dating back to last season, thanks to his quickness and shooting ability against bigger, slower opponents. Young, however, is a phenomenal athlete and, like Anthony, has developed into a threat from three-point land. He's shooting 36 percent from deep this season, which provides a dangerous complement to his open-court game.
What to Look For
It will be a battle of pace and ball security. The Knicks figure to be the deeper, more experienced group, so if they stick to the gameplan of sharing the ball and communicating on defense, the outcome should resemble the last meeting (January 11), which New York won, 102-92...J.R. Smith played near-perfect basketball in that game, and has quietly elevated his level of play since. He's averaging 15 points and shooting 47.5% from the floor over the last five games, starting with that matchup in Philly...Sixers' point guard Tony Wroten has a sprained ankle, which could mean more ballhandling duties for Turner. While not a strong shooter, Turner is a gifted facilitator and one of the best rebounding wings (along with Shumpert) in the league.