1. Not the same Knicks team
Since the last Sixers-Knicks matchup, New York has swapped head coaches, with Mike Woodson taking over for Mike D’Antoni. As a result, expect a bit less of D’Antoni’s pick-and-roll centered offense and more of a conventional setup, with Carmelo Anthony as the key cog. Whether this results in a more competitive game remains to be seen. Andre Iguodala has more trouble guarding Melo than most opponents of his due to Melo’s unique size and strength for a perimeter player, so the Sixers will need to help Andre when Melo attacks him in the low post.
The Sixers are an excellent defensive team overall, with their one “weakness” generally being the pick-and-roll with their point guards. Unfortunately, Jeremy Lin is quite good at the pick-and-roll game. How often they use it is the question. If the Sixers can play as well against Lin as last time, it shouldn’t be a problem. But if Lin and the Knicks’ staff make the right adjustments, we could get burned by Linsanity.
2. Stretching out the Knicks defense
Tyson Chandler is the Knicks defense, essentially. His presence both in the paint and on the back end of pick-and-rolls has lifted the Knicks to being an above average defensive team on the year. Yes, with Carmelo and Amar’e Stoudemire on the roster, the Knicks are better than league average. Let that soak in for a minute.
But there are several ways to take advantage of them. For one, Chandler is the only line of defense, so getting him into foul trouble is one way to neutralize his effectiveness. I doubt this happens, though, since the Sixers don’t draw enough contact to get the opposition into foul trouble. Another is to get out in transition often. While Chandler is adept at running the floor on his own, if the Sixers force turnovers (Knicks are 29th in turnovers per game, at 16.5, so it should happen quite often) we’ll get some easy baskets. And a third is to spread the floor and the basketball around – Chandler can’t cover everyone, and Anthony and Stoudemire tend to give up on trying after too long. With Spencer Hawes back in the lineup, for 25 minutes or so, Chandler will also have to cover Hawes on the perimeter, although Mike Woodson might keep Chandler matched with Elton Brand for that very reason.
3. Getting Turner on track
Evan Turner has struggled since Hawes’ return to the lineup, as the offense has shifted back to one not centered on him. I don’t understand the reasoning for it, but it’s happened. I, for one, would like a return to the Turner-centric offense from a couple of weeks ago. It worked against the Knicks, and a coaching change for the Knicks will not change that. Look to see whether Turner initiates the offense or not. If not, we may as well put Jodie Meeks back into the starting five.