By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. 76ers | Wells Fargo Center
When: Friday | 7:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (28-40): The Knicks' winning streak reached seven games on Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers in what was by far the most impressive performance yet. Against the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference, New York turned up the intensity on defense and limited All-Star Paul George to 4-of-17 shooting to secure the victory. Carmelo Anthony poured in 34 points against the league's No. 1 ranked defense and Ama're Stoudemire continued to produce on both ends of the floor, with 21 points and some tough play in the paint against the Pacers' bigs. With 14 games to play, the Knicks trail Atlanta by four games for the East's final playoff spot.
Philadelphia (15-53): When these two teams met at Madison Square Garden almost two weeks ago, the Sixers had lost 17 games in a row and there were questions about them winning another game the rest of the season. As the Knicks head to Philly tonight, the losing streak has grown to 22 and with 14 games to play -- only three against non-playoff teams -- those questions still persist. Thaddeus Young has been the most consistent performer this year, while Rookie of the Year candidate Michael Carter-Williams and promising guard Tony Wroten have received extended minutes and opportunities to develop amidst the rebuilding. Beyond those three, first-year head coach Brett Brown's rotation consists mostly of D-League callups and young players who may or may not be in Philly's long-term plans.
The Numbers Game
Over their 7 game win streak, @nyknicks are scoring 118.8 Points Per 100 Possessions. Over their prior 7 games? Just 100.1 (0-7)— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) March 20, 2014
Matchup to Watch
Iman Shumpert vs. Michael Carter-Williams
Carter-Williams looked like the runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year, but as his offensive efficiency continues to slide and his team continues to lose, his overall production increasingly seems like a product of Philly's pace of play. The Sixers use more possessions than any team in the league, and as a result, Carter-Williams has been able to average 16.8 points, 6.2 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game despite shooting under 40 percent from the floor. He doesn't have much help around him, and he hasn't been very successful trying to create offense. The Knicks allow opponents to score 105.2 points per 100 possessions with Shump on the floor, but 112.5 with him on the bench. He's clearly making an impact, especially on D, and could be used to defend MCW tonight.
What to Look For
The Knicks know that every game is essentially "must-win" as they try to claw back into the playoff picture. The effort they showed in beating Indiana was impressive, as was the resolve they showed to execute down the stretch when the Pacers made their run. With wins over Indy and Miami, they have proven they can play with the best teams in the league, now they must take care of business against the struggling Sixers before returning home to face Cleveland on Sunday. After that, they'll head west for five games in seven days.