What is it about facing a team on a cold streak that seems so much more
terrifying than facing a team that's actually been playing well? Since
beating the Cleveland Cavaliers at home on Leap Day, the Knicks have
been brutal, dropping consecutive games to the Celtics, Mavericks, Spurs
and Bucks, with only the first and last even being particularly close
contests. The Linsanity honeymoon is over, Carmelo Anthony still hasn't
found his stride with the new lineup, and the Knicks' temporarily
effective D has vanished into the midtown air.
So naturally, this could only mean one thing: That the Knicks have been
dogging it for four games just to make sure they have the energy and
motivation to mercilessly beat down the Sixers at noon today at MSG.
Stupid sports fandom.
In reality, you have to like the Sixers' chances. The Ballers have
finally found their stride post-All-Star break, and are 2-1 since adding
Evan Turner to the starting lineup, with the two wins coming by a
combined 45 points against good (well, decent) Celtics and Jazz teams.
The lineup is clicking, and aside from the perpetually absent Spencer
Hawes (finally due back Wednesday against the Pacers, and not a moment
too soon), healthy as well. On paper, you have to like our chances
against this disjointed, incoherent New York Knicks team.
Still, the Knicks have something else on their side: Recent history. The
Sixers came to MSG in January on the heels of some of their hottest
play of the season, but came up short against a physical, better-sized
Knicks team, unable to keep Carmelo and Amar'e Stoudemire from getting
theirs. And this was before the Knicks had a point guard—Lin may have
cooled off some recently, but he's still a damn sight better at running a
team than Iman Shumpert and Tony Douglas, and with Jrue Holiday
struggling defensively against high-level point guards like Derrick Rose
and Brandon Jennings recently (and safety valve Andre Iguodala way busy
with Carmelo Anthony), keeping Lin in check won't be an easy task.
Expect Turner to get the call against Lin on occasion, and of course,
expect to see far too much of Tony Battie.
12:00 tip from MSG. The Sixers always seem to play the Knicks in these
Sunday matinees at pivotal moments in their season, and today is no
exception. Is the team's improvement with increased minutes for Turner
for real, or just a couple lucky games in a row? Is this team still the
class of the Atlantic, and can we stay ahead of not just the Knicks, but
the two-games-back Celtics, who play the Lakers later this afternoon?
Hoping these answers are yes—bummer of a Sunday afternoon otherwise.