Tonight was the 76ers' third game in just as many nights. Considering this never happens during a normal regular season, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility that they might be coming in with tired legs. Well fellow Michael McDonald enthusiasts, this certainly seemed to be the case tonight against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden.
It was another slow start for the Sixers as they managed just 15 first quarter points against a team that isn't necessarily known for their defensive prowess. Unlike previous games in which the Sixers got off to a slow start (aka, every game), the opposition was able to capitalize and build a significant margin. Without starting center Spencer Hawes, the Knicks were able to go inside to all-star Amare Stoudemire who had little to no trouble converting near the basket. Stoudemire used this significant advantage to finish the game with a solid 20 (on 14 shots) and 10 night.
In just about every game during this young season, the Sixers utilized ball movement and finding the open man on their way to becoming the NBA's top ranked team in offensive efficiency. Tonight, especially early on, this was not the case. The Sixers were dribbling around more than is to be desired, finding themselves in situations that called for a shot to be rushed so as to avoid a shot clock violation. The one-on-one style they played with along with the bevy of early turnovers (9 turnovers against just 5 assists) caused the Sixers to go into the break down 10.
More after the jump.
The third quarter was one that the Sixers have used, especially in their last two games, to separate themselves from the opposing team. Carmelo Anthony did all he could to make sure this didn't happen tonight. Melo went face to face with arguably the best wing defender in the game in Andre Iguodala and capitalized. At one point, despite Iguodala playing as good of defense as you will ever see, Anthony connected on 4 straight shot attempts along with 2 free throws. Although it was the only time all game that Melo hit his shots, this little hot streak along with rookie Josh Harrellson dropping a triple (3 of his 13 points) at the end of the quarter allowed the Knicks to maintain their double digit lead with one quarter to go.
For the first four minutes of the final quarter, it certainly appeared the Sixers were completely done for as the Knicks extended their lead to 17 points with just 9 minutes left to play. All of a sudden, Thaddeus Young and the Sixers decided it was time to turn it up. Young had struggled mightily on the offensive end for the entirety of the game up until this point. All of sudden, he became the driving force behind a 8-0 Sixer run, draining two jumpers and connecting on an easy deuce off the glass. Tough defense from Iguodala on Melo (two turnovers and causing a forced airball leading to a shot clock violation) and an aggressive offensive mentality from Evan Turner lead the Sixers to within 4 with just 30 seconds remaining. The Sixers next possession had Dre drive to the middle of the lane and find an open Thad for a mid-range jumper that came up short, much like the rest of the Sixers jumpers during the course of the game. The Knicks were able to snag the rebound and seal the victory.
While it was certainly disappointing to see the Sixers struggle on rotations (especially Jrue off screens), come up short on jumpshot after jumpshot, and become stagnant offensively, it's certainly understandable and not something I'm putting a significant amount of stock into. This was their third game in as many nights, their legs were most certainly tired and worn down. They very easily could have given up down 17 in the fourth quarter, but it was evident they gave every last ounce of energy they could muster up (not allowing the Knicks a single field goal in the last 9 minutes?!?!) in a comeback effort.
- Yes, Carmelo got 27 points. However, it took him 24 shots and 8 made free throws to do so. Dre deserves a ton of credit for defending him the way he did, especially on the last leg of three games in three nights. Then again, this is nothing new.
- Evan Turner continues to impress me/make me feel like a proud parent this year. No his shot wasn't falling like we'd ultimately like but he was taking every opportunity he had. The growth continues to excite me.
- Jodie Meeks had yet another forgettable game. There came a point midway through the third quarter where the only reason I noticed he was in the game was because he picked up a foul.
- To Mike's delight, Louis Williams was not good at all. At least 3 times (by my count) Lou decided he'd take a shot himself rather than dish the ball to the open man. He missed all three of those attempts.
- Lost in the "chippiness" of the Anthony/Iguodala saga was the back and forth between Holiday and Iman Shumpert. Both guys were locked on each other throughout the fourth quarter, providing fans with a fascinating defensive battle.
- The double-technical rule is absolute nonsense. Why Dre got penalized for Melo acting immature is beyond me.
Say so long to the 6 game win streak, folks. The Sixers will get to rest for one day and then they'll be back at it in Philly for part one of a home and home against the struggling (to say the least) Washington Wizards.