Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Game Preview: Knicks vs. Sixers 2/21/12

The Knicks head on the road to face the Atlantic division leading Philadelphia 76ers in a game that could potentially affect playoff position for both teams. New York currently holds just a half game lead over the Milwaukee Bucks for the 8th and final playoff spot. The Knicks also would like to score a win against the Sixers to help close the four game gap between the teams for the division lead. The division lead would be a major bonus for New York, who at this point, would be facing the Bulls in the playoffs. Division leaders are guaranteed a top four seeding which would help the Knicks avoid a potential top seed first round opponent like Chicago or Miami. Tonight's game will also provide the tie breaker if the teams finish with the same record. The season series is currently tied at 1-1 with Philadelphia easily beating the Knicks ten days ago in New York, 106-94.

However a lot has changed in those ten days, and the Knicks, under Mike Woodson, have become reinvigorated. They currently hold a four game winning streak after dropping their previous six games. The Sixers, on the other hand, have won only one of their previous four games. The sole win coming against the pitiful Bobcats. The worst loss was a 17 point blowout at the hands of the Indiana Pacers, whom the Knicks were able to handily defeat in two games over the weekend.

The Knicks will have to focus in on the offensive end of the court against the Sixers, who have the league top defense. Here are the three keys to the game for the Knicks to get the win.

Key #1: Carmelo must keep dishing the ball

Melo has done a good job in the past four games of moving the ball, averaging 5 assist per game in limited minutes. Tonight he will be facing off against one of the league's best perimeter defender, Andre Iguodala. Iguodala averages almost two steals a game and has been effective on Anthony this season. Melo has had only 38% shooting from the field. Anthony needs to take smart shots tonight and get the ball out of his hands and into the hands of lesser offensive weapons, like Tyson Chandler, who has been a key player over the four game streak.

Key #2: Stop Louis Williams off the bench

Williams is a key player for the average Philadelphia offense. He scores 15 points per game off the bench and is a strong distributor. He dropped 28 points in the previous game against New York shooting well from the field and behind the arc. But Williams has been prone this season to poor shooting performances averaging only 41% shooting from the field. Over the last three losses, Williams has been relatively shut down by the opposing teams, averaging single digit scoring, and shooting 10 for 35 from the field. Williams also has been unable to get to the line, with only ten attempts in the past four games (he had six attempts in the previous game against the Knicks). Stopping Williams will go a long way towards slowing down the Sixers offense that is 21st in the league in scoring.

Key #3: Bench must continue playing well

The Knicks bench has been very strong this season, and especially since Mike Woodson took over. But they looked pretty average against the Raptors last night scoring only 26 points as a unit. J.R. Smith scored 11 by himself, and looked great on both ends of the floor. The bench will have a tough matchup against the Sixers, who are considered by some to be the best bench in the league. The game will be interesting throughout, whether starters or the bench players are on the floor.

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