A few we weeks ago the Knicks might’ve looked at this weekend as an opportunity to bury the 76ers and cement the six seed as their worst-case scenario. But where New York continues to sputter, Philly has won five out of six and has closed the gap between seventh and sixth to just three games, with a big home and home starting tonight in Philadelphia.
Looking at the Sixers’ numbers, it’s amazing how…average they are. At everything. They’re ranked between 10 and 20 in just about every category I could find, including efficiency. Their point differential has hovered near zero all year, and has just nudged itself into the black as their record has started to more accurately reflect their play. Since I can’t glean much by the numbers, let’s dive right into the lineup of a team that may just lead the league in BoB favorites.
PG – Jrue Holiday: Two numbers that jump off the page in year two: he’s doubled his FTA per game, and he’s lowered his turnover ratio. He’s getting to the basket, and doing it more efficiently.
SG – BoB Favorite Jodie Meeks: Slightly more comfortable putting the ball on the floor this year as he tries to grow out of his reputation as a floor-spacer.
SF – Andre Iguodala: Iggy’s FTA per game the last three seasons: 6.4, 5.2 and this year, 4.4. And that’s with consistent minutes, plus he’s shooting a career-low 67% FT this year. This is a very disturbing trend for such a mediocre outside shooter, and it’s why the Knicks ought to pass on Iguodala and his contract as a possible plan B.
PF – Elton Brand: Has converted exactly six field goals in six of his last seven games, and seven of his last nine. I just thought that was interesting. Has been consistent all year, and makes me hope Mike D’Antoni elects to start the big lineup again this evening.
C – Spencer Hawes: Shoots way too many jumpers, misses way too many jumpers, and is averaging a shocking 43% at the line. My advice to Ronny Turiaf and especially Timofey Mozgov: please don’t go for the block, just rebound the miss.
Do the Knicks Fly to Games in Philly?: I have no idea, but if they don’t, that would mean the Knicks (minus Amar’e Stoudemire) are in the midst of nearly a month without boarding a plane. From January 29 – the day after the Atlanta game that most of them seemed not to attend anyway – to February 24, when they would presumably fly to Cleveland for a game the next day, the Knicks have the All-Star break and just two road games, tonight in Philly and a week from tomorrow in New Jersey.
Reason #572 I’m Thrilled Raymond Felton Didn’t Make the All-Star Team: See above. Get some rest, Ray. We need you.
Knicks Lineup: Wilson Chandler has vowed to make his triumphant return to the lineup tonight. Whether he starts remains to be seen, but as I stated above, with a post presence at the four it might be best to take the weekend to ease Wil back into things.
The Sixers Practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine: The fightin’ Caregivers!
Point Forward: Sixers coach Doug Collins has tweaked his offense to include far more of Andre Iguodala starting the offense at the top of the key, even using the phrase, “point forward.” It’s a move that makes sense; Iguodala is an excellent penetrator and passer, and the Philly backcourt guys, Holiday, Meeks and BoB Favorite Lou Williams, all have varying amounts of chucker in them. Holiday may yet become the point guard of the future, but he didn’t do it in college and Collins doesn’t trust his decision-making just yet.
Philly’s Lineup: The 76ers haven’t really had much on the injury front lately, although Andres Nocioni has been kept sidelined after a broken finger. He’s ready to play but has caught a few DNP-CD’s amid the Sixers’ hot streak. Overall, Philly runs pretty deep: we haven’t even mentioned Evan Turner, who is taking baby steps and has earned more minutes in the last month. In the frontcourt, Thad Young brings the energy and BoB Fave Marreese Speights brings the touch.
Doug Collins-Coached Teams in His First Year: The Bulls, Pistons and Wizards improved their respective win totals from the previous season by 10, 18 and 18. Pretty impressive.
I watched the Sixers recently against Phoenix (as good a team in the league for seeing how the Knicks might match up), and I noticed a few things that may or may not apply this weekend. What jumped out at me right away was that the 76ers were having trouble defending the pick and roll. Doug Collins likes a high-energy defense, and he wants his bigs to get out and show on those high screens. The problem is that other than Young, the Philly bigs don’t really have the agility to show hard and then rotate back to their man. They have excellent athleticism on the wings and in the backcourt, but their big men hamper the defensive rotation in general.
The Sixer frontcourt’s lack of mobility in general is problematic for them, especially given those players’ styles. Hawes, Brand and Speights all like to drift away from the basket and shoot jump shots, but they don’t have the feet to be a threat at that distance off the bounce. Young can put it on the deck a little bit, but he’s the least reliable shooter of the four.
Offensively, the Sixers are very structured and try to get everyone a touch on the ball during a possession. Collins clearly stresses ball movement and doesn’t isolate any one player, save for Brand in the post when there’s an inside mismatch. But while they try to maintain their poise, the game breaks down easily and the Sixers allow themselves to get caught up in the pace of the game. This is where Holiday needs to be a floor leader and calm things down, and it’s probably why Collins recently elected to put the ball more in Iguodala’s hands. Philly also takes an awful lot of midrange jumpers.
Finally, and probably apropos of nothing given the Knicks have no isolation threat at two-guard, a note on Evan Turner’s defense. Three times in a row Phoenix ran the exact same set to isolate Grant Hill on Turner, and three times Hill got the shot he wanted. I haven’t seen too much of the Sixers this year, so I’m only judging on this one game, but just the fact that Phoenix was so eager to attack Turner is as big an indictment of his defense as I could imagine. A guy that long and athletic shouldn’t be getting isolated every time down the floor.