This Friday 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 upcoming 76ers opponents — features tonight’s foes, the New York Knickerbockers.
Despite the fact that the Knicks sit 3 games ahead of the 76ers in the Eastern Conference standings, we really, really like the Sixers chances of pulling out a W at home tonight. Let’s forget for a second that the Knicks have lost 8 of their last 11 and 5 straight on the road. Then put aside the idea that the Sixers beat the Knicks in NYC back in early November when the Sixers were a mess and in the midst of a 3-13 start. Also block out of your mind that Vegas has installed the Sixers as a four point favorite in this contest. Those are the obvious reasons we like the Sixers to notch one in the win column tonight.
The “in-depth” reasons we really like the Sixers chances of securing another home win tonight is because of the significant matchup problems the 7-6 will present for the NYK’s defense. The Sixers’ roster is simply filled with players that on paper should give the Knicks defenders fits all over the floor. Who on the Knicks is going to guard Holiday? Who’s going to bang with EB? What Knick can handle covering ‘Dre for the majority of the night? And those are just the matchup issues the Knicks will have with Sixers first-five.
When Collins goes to his bench, is there a Knick guard that is nearly as fast as Louis? What about Thad? Which Knick 3 or 4 man will deal with the responsibility of defending his scoring from the wing? Hell, even Speights appears to provide some defensive assignment issues for the Knicks.
Even though the Sixers should score at will tonight, we’re not predicting a cake walk for the 7-6. Obviously, Amare provides a glaring mismatch for the Sixers bigs. So Amare will get his tonight. That won’t be fun to watch and it should be enough to keep the Knicks within shouting distance. However, unless he hits for 50 + down at the WFC, we don’t think his scoring can carry the Knicks to a win.
Don’t try and convince us that onight the Knicks are going to successfully get out and run on the Sixers either. As we have seen this season, the Sixers can go up and down the floor with any team in the League. The difference is we also sprinkle in a solid defensive game whereas the Knicks do not (giving up 106 ppg. — 4th worst in the League).
For a little more insight into the Grizzlies team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Mike Kurylo from KnickerBlogger.net to answer two questions on the Knicks from us here at Philadunkia as well as provide us with two points of analysis on this New York squad from an insider’s perspective.
Philadunkia : Raymond Felton is obviously playing out of his mind this year. Can you pinpoint for us what things Felton has changed about his game that have helped produced such a banner year or was it simply a “change of scenery” that has led to his explosion this season?
Mike Kurylo @ KnickerBlogger.net : It depends what you constitute as improvement in Felton. He started off the year playing out of his mind. However he’s hit a sharp decline since. In Charlotte, Felton was a poor shooter until his final year when he was closer to the league average. This year he started off way above his norm, and has since cooled off. The question is where will Felton level off, at his last year numbers with the Bobcats or closer to his first four years in the league?
I delve deeply into the issue in this article.
Philadunkia : 76ers fans are viewing this two game weekend set as a big “series” which could draw the Sixers closer to the 6-seed in the 2011 Playoff race. Can you give us a little insight as to what importance level (if any) is being placed on this two game set by NYK fans?
Mike Kurylo @ KnickerBlogger.net : After years of being on the outside (and the very far outside), Knick fans have the inside track for a playoff spot. So New Yorkers aren’t looking behind, but rather ahead. With an improved team, led by All Star Amar’e Stoudemire, it seems as if the Knicks can beat any given team. Not that they are likely to, but that they have a fighting chance. With this kind of mindset, it seems that every game is important. A win in February is just as important as April, no matter the opponent.
On the other hand Alan Hahn of Newsday quotes Donnie Walsh calling the match-up a “challenge” and Raymond Felton describing it “like playoff games” and expects “a dogfight, no question.” So what do I know?
Two Points of analysis from Mike Kurylo @ KnickerBlogger.net:
1) Keep track of Landry Fields at all times. He moves incredibly well without the ball. He’s that unique type of slippery player that any time your eyes leave him, it’s an opportunity for him to break to the hoop for an easy bucket. He’s very good finishing at the basket, like a smaller version of David Lee, that you have to stop him from receiving the ball there. Also he’s a tenacious rebounder for a shooting guard.
2) Danilo Gallinari is just another Euro-outside shooter, right? Wrong! He’s very adept at getting to the hoop and drawing contact when there. He attempts 6.2 free throws per 36 minutes, 2nd best on the Knicks after Stoudemire. The Rooster excels at turning contact on a drive into a trip to the charity stripe, and at 88.4% he’s very good at converting his tries. Additionally he’s good at shielding the ball from his opponent. In the paint when cut off on his right side, he’ll unleash a left handscoop shot across his body. If an opponent concentrates on his three point shooting too much, he’ll find himself staring at Gallo hitting free throw after free throw after free throw…