This edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” – Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews key upcoming 76ers games – features tonight’s opponent, the New York Knicks, who have won seven in a row and now feature Zen Master Phil Jackson as the savior of their franchise.
After the jump, I’ll look a Fo’ key items for tonight’s game. Additionally, we’ll get a little more insight into the New York team the Sixers face tonight from our colleague Sam Spiegelman from theknicksblog.com which covers the Knickerbockers for SNY.tv, as Sam will answer Fo’ questions on the Knicks from us here at Philadunkia.
Here are Fo’ key items I will be watching for tonight…
1) The Sixers Effort Tonight (Part Deux) — For the second straight game, I’ll be interested to see what the Sixers have left in the tank (Again, no pun intended). On the road against Indiana and at home Wednesday night vs. Chicago, the under-manned 76ers put up a tremendous fight only to lose by single digits. If the Sixers put forth a third straight high level effort, Brett Brown’s rag-tag bunch (Sorry Thad) deserves some sort of award from this city. Or at least a beer on the house at Chicke’s and Pete’s.
2) Containing “Stat” — Amar’e was having a so-so year (11 ppg. & 4.6 rpg.) until this month when he suddenly exploded and has shown flashes of his long gone all-star days. In the month of March Amar’e is averaging 17 & 6 per night and looks very healthy. In the his last four games, Amar’e is putting up 19 & 7. If the Sixers hope to stay competitive again tonight or possibly win this game, Thad, Varnado and/or Sims will have to play solid defense on Amar’e.
3) Let ‘Melo Get His, Defend The Others — Much to my surprise, the Knicks are 10-9 this season when ‘Melo scores 30 or more in a game. Additionally, in their match ups with the Knicks this season, it’s been guys like JR Smith and Tim Hardaway, Jr. who have killed the 76ers. So if Melo scores 5o and we get beat I’m fine with that loss. I’d rather lockdown his sidekicks and prevent those other players on the Knicks from pushing their team to an 8th straight victory.
4) 76ers Defense — The Knicks have averaged 114.5 points on 51.0 percent shooting while winning six straight against the NBA’s lottery bound teams. The 76ers defense has been much improved in the last two games (100.5 ppg allowed vs. 110.5 on the season). I’ve witnessed better rotations; quicker help from the weakside and improved on-ball defense in the last two contests. However the Bulls and Pacers aren’t exactly the most lethal offensive teams in the Association. So tonight let’s keep an eye on the 7-6’s team defense against a Knicks squad that can really fill it up.
For a little more insight into the Knicks team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Sam Spiegelman from theknicksblog.com to answer four questions on the Knicks from us here at Philadunkia.
Philadunkia: The Knicks have won a season high 7 in a row. Five of those wins came against the bottom dwellers on the NBA. However this streak also boasts wins over MIN and IND (last night). Was the win over Indy a Phil Jackson fueled emotional W or did you see from the NYK on the court last night that you liked?
Sam Spiegelman @ theknicksblog.com: For a while, I was chocking up the Knicks’ success to their competition. But watching them Wednesday night play playoff-type defense against the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers has changed my mind. Perhaps I’m a prisoner of the moment, but the Knicks are playing with a passion and mindset that every game is a must-win if they want to reach the playoffs, and that’s because it is. I do also believe the presence of Phil Jackson in the Garden motivated the team, but one of the Knicks’ biggest issues is coming out energized. They’ve played with energy in each of their seven wins.
Philadunkia: In the month of March, Amar’e has really played very well (17 & 6 per night; 19 & 7 in his last 4 games). What do you think are the reasons behind his recent surge?
Sam Spiegelman @ theknicksblog.com: One, obviously, is that he’s finally healthy. “Stat” has dealt with knee issues for his entire career, but coach Mike Woodson has done a great job of resting the forward periodically and monitoring his minutes. Given that rest, he’s been able to give his all when he’s on the court, and his production has been a testament to that. Also, I believe he’s relying on his jumper more instead of trying to post-up, which is paying off big time.
Philadunkia: Obviously the hiring of Phil Jackson made headlines this week. What / if any impact do you think he will have on the Knicks during the remainder of this season?
Sam Spiegelman @ theknicksblog.com: It’s a lot like when a head coach is fired or a new general manager is hired, and immediately every player is fighting to prove they deserve a roster spot the next season. With Jackson now running the show, he has to decide which of these pieces he wants to retain going forward and who’s expendable. Not only are the Knicks players fighting for their playoff lives, they’re fighting for jobs in New York City in 2014-15.
Philadunkia: Do you believe the Knicks will catch the Hawks or Bobcats and make the playoffs this year?
Sam Spiegelman @ theknicksblog.com: Whether they catch the Hawks or Bobcats is tough to call. Prior to the game against Indiana Wednesday night, the team’s strength of its remaining schedule was .500, and they were set to host a number of playoff teams, including the Heat, Raptors, Wizards and the always emotional games against crosstown rival Brooklyn. However, the Knicks should win their next four games, while Atlanta hosts New Orleans and three Western Conference playoff teams over their next four. Atlanta then finished their schedule against the East, with contests over Indiana, Brooklyn, Miami and Charlotte. I think the Knicks are a better team, so I lean toward saying yes they will catch up, and part of my rationale is that there’s also a chance the Bobcats slip, too.
Thanks to Sam Spiegelman for his time and answers.
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