Jan. 12, 2017
Bullying The Knicks On Broad Street: Previewing Tonight's Matchup With New York
?Don't let the Derrick Rose drama, the many internet memes out there over the years, or anything else fool you. New York is a dangerous team that's deeper than you'd think. That said, the Knicks are an incredibly streaky team that's very beatable if you know how to play them. Here are the matchups at each position and the keys to a Sixers victory tonight.
First, let's take a look at how the Sixers stack up against New York at each position.
Point guard: The Sixers can actually win this positional matchup IF Chasson Randle plays and plays the kind of defense neither of our other point guards do. Derrick Rose is still a very good player but he's not the same unguardable force he was in his early days. Stay in front of him and make him beat you with contested jumpers. Brandon Jennings is the X-Factor here, as he is a dynamic scorer who can get hot from deep and kill you with his combination of skill, speed, and quickness. If he goes off, the Sixers will probably lose.
Shooting guard: This is a positional matchup the Sixers definitely can and should win easily. Courtney Lee is a talented, tough player but he is incredibly streaky and can be taken out of games if you get up into him. Stay in front of him, and force him to beat you with contested jumpers. Justin Holiday and especially Ron Baker are the X-Factors here, as each is a very capable scorer who can really kill you from deep. Nik Stauskas and Gerald Henderson need to attack relentlessly on both ends.
Small forward: This is a positional matchup the Sixers can definitely win IF Robert Covington comes to play. We all know what Melo can do but the fact is Covington is capable of shutting him down and is more than capable of drawing foul after foul on him if he attacks relentlessly on both ends. Lance Thomas is a very underrated player and Mindaugas Kuzminskas can really be a problem with his energy and skill but they aren't Melo, and both can be neutralized if you stay in front of them defensively. Neither can guard our best perimeter players when they have an aggressive mindset, either.
Power forward: The Sixers can definitely and need to win this positional matchup in order to have a chance in this game. Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the Knicks but Embiid can definitely dominate him on both ends down low, and Ersan can get up into him out near the perimeter. Stay in front of Porzingis and make him beat you with contested jumpers, and get him in foul trouble by attacking relentlessly on offense. Expect to see Lance Thomas and Kyle O'Quinn both log minutes at the position but the Sixers definitely have the players to neutralize both on defense and dominate them on the offensive end.
Center: If the Sixers don't win this positional matchup easily, they probably won't win. Joakim Noah is flat out no match for either Embiid or Okafor and should be put into foul trouble quickly. Kyle O'Quinn is a problem down low but the Sixers have wave after wave of big men to throw at him. Willy Hernangomez is another guy who can really be a problem down low but he's young and can definitely be taken out of a game if you get up into him. Don't lose sight of him though.
Now here are the keys to a Sixers victory tonight.
1. Death By RoCo- Covington can dictate this game on both ends if he plays up to his capabilities. If he can outplay Melo, the Sixers have a great shot tonight.
2. Get To The Line- Goes without saying. The Sixers have an advantage at nearly every position and need to take advantage of it. Get Melo and Porzingis in foul trouble and this game can easily be yours.
3. Own The Paint- Goes without saying.
4. No Easy Looks- Again, goes without saying.
5. Attack Relentlessly Offensively- The Knicks are an atrocious defensive team. Force them to either foul or give up hoop after hoop by attacking the paint relentlessly.
Don't Sleep On
Derrick Rose- Rose might not be the same player he was in his MVP days thanks to knee injuries but if you think he's a player you can sleep on, you need to go sit down in a corner somewhere. Yes, you. Do it. Now.
Brandon Jennings- It's amazing I have to tell anybody not to sleep on Jennings but getting traded to Orlando really killed his career. Don't think for a second he can't easily kill you if he gets in a mind to score though.
Courtney Lee- Lee is a very streaky player and has been ever since his career started trending downward after Orlando traded him to the Nets for Vince Carter in 2009 but when his mindset is right, he can really be a problem. He can still drive to the hoop and finish strong, and he can get hot from deep. You can't really count on Lee to put up 30 but he's still capable of it in the right game.
Justin Holiday- The lesser known of the Holiday brothers finally got his big break on a big stage with the Warriors, and he impressed enough to land a contract the next season before eventually landing in New York. Holiday is a Reggie Williams-type scorer who is very capable slashing to the rim but can also put up a 20+ point game doing nothing but shooting threes. He's basically one of the original poster children of "Don't Sleep On".
Ron Baker- Baker has really been slept on and made the butt of jokes because he stayed at Wichita State for all four years -which apparently is now ridiculous to the point where people ask how long he's been there- but he can flat out ball. He is a very skilled player and capable shooter, and more importantly a marksman from deep. One thing Baker is not known for is defense but let's face it, he's in the league for one reason and that is to score.
Mindaugas Kuzminskas- Mindaugas is definitely an unknown to people who don't follow international hoops but he is a very skilled and more importantly relentless player. Kuzminskas is like Joe Engles in that he came over far too late to have a long NBA career but will take the league by surprise when it comes to how good he really is. While not as skilled as the true small forwards on Team Lithuania, Kuzminskas got signed by New York because he has the size and the relentlessness to play down low and thus won't have to stick at the three in order to play in the NBA. Make no mistake though, this guy is a very skilled player and capable shooter who can really take you by surprise offensively.
Lance Thomas- Lance Thomas didn't really get much shine or respect as a player until he went to New York as part of the Dion Waiters trade but he is a tough, skilled combo forward who can flat out ball. Thomas is one of those guys who won't draw the attention of a team's defensive gameplan but can really kill you if you don't account for him. Not only can he hit from deep, he's tenacious down low and very capable of drawing fouls whether on strong drives to the hoop or just by playing bully ball and getting position down low.
Kyle O'Quinn- O'Quinn is going to be one of the players featured in a little piece I'm going to write for HoopsLife on the most underrated, complete big men in the game. He is a very good overall player who can get hot from deep, and he can flat out be a problem inside if you let him. If the Sixers don't box out this guy, he can get a double-double in his sleep and really help swing momentum to the Knicks.
Willy Hernangomez- Sixers fans should remember Willy as the guy the team drafted in the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft then traded to New York for a bunch of nothing. We did a very small analysis of his game in our writeup of the 2015 Draft but the fact is Henangomez is a completely different player now. This was readily apparent in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, as Hernangomez at times established himself as a force down low and was one of the younger players giving Spanish fans hope for a future that looked bleak without the Gasols and other legendary players. He is a very capable inside scorer, has a nice developing mid-range jumper -and can even hit from the perimeter-, and is more athletic and much stronger than you'd think at first glance. This kid is going to be a player, and if you don't box him out, he can definitely hurt you. He's also a fantastic passer and an improving defender who can play very tough down low. You might not know Hernangomez yet but you will.
To sum it up, this is a winnable game but far from a lock. Execute the keys to the game and you can maybe even blow New York out. Fail to do so, and you can be embarrassed. This team is like a snake in the grass. If you overlook it, you will get bitten.