The Knicks have now lost eight games in a row, and are slowly working their way towards the grouping of four other teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Their record of 24-44 places them just four games ahead of the Hawks in last place. New York’s most recent loss was a 97-110 effort against the Mavericks. Frank Hornacek opted to give significant minutes to his bench in that game, playing just one starter for more than 26 minutes.
In contrast, the 76ers have a little more to play for. They are sitting in sixth place in the east with a 36-30 record, just three games from third and 1.5 games from eighth. On Tuesday, Philadelphia dropped an important game against the Pacers, against whom they went down 98-101. A triple-double from Ben Simmons and 29 points from Joel Embiid wasn’t enough, as they struggled to generate any offense in the final quarter.
Three keys to the game
The Knicks’ quest for losses - The Knicks aren’t much good without Kristaps Porzingis anyway, but recent form suggests they don’t have a whole lot of interest in ending the season in winning form. They have now lost eight games in a row, before which they had a solitary win which followed another eight game losing streak. In this time they concede a league-high 119.7 points per 100 possessions and have a league-worst net rating of -16.4
Can the 76ers take care of the ball? - This has been a problem for Philadelphia all season. They turn the ball over on 16.9% of possessions, easily the most in the league, as is their 17.2 turnovers per game. Against the Pacers on Tuesday, the 76ers gave it up 22 times, with Embiid himself guilty on eight occasions,
3-point shooting - This has been a major reason for the Knicks’ current eight-game losing streak. In this time, they are connecting on just 32.5% of their 23.9 3-point attempts per game, leaving them dead last in the NBA in this category. Incidentally, the 76ers are top of the league in this time, making 39.7% of their 3-pointers.
Matchup to watch
Joel Embiid vs Enes Kanter - Embiid has a fairly clear talent advantage in this matchup, but Kanter has more than held his own in their past matchups. In the first game the two sides played against one another this season, Kanter was dominant, putting up 31 points and 22 rebounds on Christmas Day, though Embiid also had 25 points and 16 rebounds.
Kanter is averaging 14.1 points and 10.8 rebounds in 25.7 minutes per game this season, and has continued to play reasonably well despite the Knicks’ poor form. Embiid’s numbers are a little better. In 2017/18, he is contributing 23.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 blocks, and is coming off a game in which he scored 29 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, dished out four assists and also added three blocks.
New York Knicks predicted starting lineup
PG - Emmanuel Mudiay | SG - Courtney Lee | SF - Tim Hardaway Jr | PF - Lance Thomas | C - Enes Kanter
Philadelphia 76ers predicted starting lineup
PG - Ben Simmons | SG - JJ Redick | SF - Robert Covington | PF - Dario Saric | C - Joel Embiid
Kanter has proven difficult to stop in the two games between these sides this season. His 31 points and 22 rebounds on Christmas was complemented with 17 points, 13 rebounds and three assists against the 76ers earlier in the season.
TJ McConnell has been excellent coming off the bench against the Knicks this season. In the first matchup between the sides he played 37 minutes, adding ten points, ten rebounds, 11 assists and a huge six steals. He was solid on Christmas too, contributing 15 points, five rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
Unsurprisingly, the 76ers are comfortable favorites in this game, and have been given a nine-point handicap by oddsmakers. They should be able to cover this without too much trouble. The Knicks are simply waiting for the season to end, and won’t put up much of a fight.
The 76ers will gain an important victory against a side without a lot of interest in winning. Embiid and Simmons will be dominant, and the Knicks’ relatively impotent offense will be unable to penetrate what is a good defensive side.
Philadelphia have a very favorable fixture for the rest of the season, and will begin their charge to the Playoffs with an easy win in New York, running out 116-101 victors.
The game will be broadcast locally on MSG Go and NBCSP. Tip-off is at 7:30pm ET.