Game Preview: Philadelphia 76ers vs. New York Knicks

Dec 18, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Robert Covington (33) dribbles past New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Knicks won 107-97. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Robert Covington (33) dribbles past New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Knicks won 107-97. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia 76ers, coming off their tenth win of the season, will face the New York Knicks in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Arena at 7pm Wednesday night.

The Philadelphia 76ers (10-25) fresh off their most recent win against the Brooklyn Nets Sunday afternoon, have won three of the last four games played. Joel Embiid led the Sixers offense with 20 points, five rebounds, four assists, and two blocks. Robert Covington anchored the 76ers defense with a game high five steals. He also recorded a double-double, with 15 points and 11 boards. This will be the first of four meetings between these two teams this season. Last season the Knicks swept a weaker Sixers team in all four all games played.

The New York Knicks (17-21) have struggled recently, as they have lost eight of the last nine games, including a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans Monday night. A painful game for New York, where no one in the Knicks organization knew where Derrick Rose was. Knicks leading scorer Carmelo Anthony was ejected in the third quarter for back to back technical fouls. Part-time brute Kyle O’Quinn was ejected for a flagrant foul 2 on Anthony Davis, but not before Davis scored 40 points, 18 rebounds, and 3 blocks in just 29 minutes of play. Derrick Rose is projected to be back into the lineup against Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

The Triangle

The Knicks trio of Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, and Kristaps Porzingis will shoulder the bulk of the Knicks offense, as they typically average close to 60 points combined. Porzingis will try to bounce back after a sub par performance against the Pelicans, in which he was held to nine points and four rebounds. With Rose back in the starting lineup, Brandon Jennings will come off the bench and look to give a spark to the Knicks second unit.

Robert Covington, will likely be matched up on defense with Carmelo Anthony. This is a key match up for the Sixers. Covington has been the Sixers best perimeter defender this year. Also, at 6-9, Covington has the size to defend in the post against Melo’s bully ball style of play. The key to Covington’s success will be to force Anthony to take shots where he’s not comfortable and avoid getting into foul trouble. Anthony does a good job at getting to the line, averaging just over five free throw attempts per game. He also shoots above the league average at the line, just over 85 percent. Neutralizing or at least limiting some of Carmelo Anthony’s offense is critical to the Sixers success against New York.

Rose will be more challenging to defend, as the Sixers do not have a go-to defender at the guard position. The 76ers will need to rely on  good communication and team defense to minimize Rose’s dribble penetration. This is not the 2010-11 MVP Derrick Rose the Sixers will be facing, but Rose is still explosive and dangerous at getting to the basket. Forcing Rose to shoot from the perimeter is ideal.

Porzingis Problems

Latvian born, power forward, Kristaps Porzingis will be a challenge for the Sixers front-court as well. Porzingis averages over 19 points and 7 rebounds per game. Porzingis excels when the Knicks run pick and pop plays for him. He prefers shooting from the perimeter but can score in the low post as well, with over 22 percent of his field goal attempts coming within three feet of the basket. Majority of his shot attempts will be beyond the three-point line. Porzingis attempts over 32 percent of his attempts from outside and converts an effective 41 percent. The Sixers will need timely defense rotations to chase him off the 3-point line. This is something Philly struggles with, especially late in games.

If the Sixers commit to a gritty style of defensive play like they did against Brooklyn, they can defeat the Knicks. But, this will be need to be for all four quarters. Philadelphia typically gives up the most points in the second half of regulation. They must match their defensive intensity of the first half and be aggressive all game.

Offensive Play

On the offensive side, the Sixers struggle to score. Their offensive rating is at the bottom tier of the NBA. They will rely on rookie stand-out Joel Embiid who leads the team in scoring with 19.4 points per game. Ersan Ilyasova and his dead eye shooting will also be important. When the pair are on the floor together, other teams struggle with spacing that they create. Embiid and Ilyasova are averaging 36 percent and 38 percent from beyond the arc respectively.

Few teams have a front court which can flex to cover this distance simultaneously. The Sixers will try to take advantage of this mismatch.

Moving the ball side to side and finding the best open shots are critical. That combined with penetration we are seeing more recently from Nik Stauskas, Robert Covington, and T.J. McConnell will help to keep the Knicks defense honest.

Going into tonight’s game, the Sixers have the momentum. They should take advantage as they are catching the Knicks at a troubling time. The 76ers are still in the basement of the eastern conference standings, but with Brooklyn and Miami both ranked below them, the Sixers can rack up another win at home tonight.