The 2-1 Sixers hit the turnpike to take on the 2-1 Knicks. Philadelphia has had their hands full this off season. While Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid will tell you differently, one would imagine a healthy chunk of their focus recently has been on the Ben Simmons situation. To that end, Daryl Morey has recently assured fans that “things seem to be moving very much in a positive direction.” But still the Simmons situation presents a distraction. It’s also left Rivers with the double-whammy of needing to scramble in order to find some lineups he can win with. That won’t be an easy thing to pull off when the Sixers face the Knicks tonight.
New York has adopted their head coach Tom Thibodeau’s reputation as all-in, all the time. They play smart team-defense and they always play hard at MSG.
The Knicks had one of the league’s better home records a year ago winning 25 and dropping 11 during the 2021 campaign. One twist to be aware of, the Knicks didn’t take many triples a season ago. They ranked 26th in attempts per game from downtown. This year, through just three games, they’re hoisting 49 per game. That’s the highest clip in the entire league. Didn’t Mike D’Antoni once dream of attempting that many when he coached for Morey in Houston? Now it’s Thibs out Morey-balling Morey?!
The Knicks’ attack begins with their four-man and (usually) primary initiator Julius Randle. The 7th overall pick in 2014 (just four picks behind Joel Embiid) comes in averaging 28.7 points, 11.3 boards, 6.3 dimes, two blocks, one steal, and has been firing eight 3s per contest. The Sixers don’t really have someone to match up with Randle’s size. They can try Tobias Harris first. But their fleet of smaller wings are probably better deployed against perimeter players more so than a bulldozer with a soft touch like Randle, who earned some votes for Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
Other Player of the Week nominees...— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) October 25, 2021
West: Nikola Jokić (DEN), CJ McCollum (POR), Ja Morant (MEM) and Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN).
East: Seth Curry (PHI), Spencer Dinwiddie (WAS), Kevin Durant (BKN), Tyler Herro (MIA), Zach LaVine (CHI), Evan Mobley (CLE) and Julius Randle (NYK). https://t.co/vrgsUQo0sT
To make matters more difficult, the Sixers have designated several players a game-time decision, leaving the Knicks slight favorites in this Atlantic battle. Per Rotowire.com:
Embiid slammed knees in the season opener against the Pelicans. He played through that and played well in the team’s first win of the year. However, he was clearly limited by the issue against the Nets, finishing with just 19 points on 15 shots. The Nets got away with defending The Process with LaMarcus Aldridge down the stretch. That’s how you know the big fella wasn’t quite right.
Embiid was on the injury report ahead of the team’s next game, a win over the Thunder. But Jo wound up a full-go in that one and didn’t seem to be thinking about his knee once he got into the flow.
Sixers announcer after this Josh Giddey, Joel Embiid collision:— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) October 25, 2021
“No offense to Giddy, I could care less. But this guy (Embiid), you don’t want to see him fall awkwardly because you worry as a Sixer fan.”
(On plays like that above, with the game well in hand, I almost wish he was thinking about that sore knee).
It would at least be a big lift if Andre Drummond were active. Drummond was playing some really good ball for Philly before spraining an ankle in the loss to Brooklyn. The Knicks won’t have the luxury of Nerlens Noel (knee) but one would think they could still take advantage of the Sixers on the glass whenever Embiid takes a rest; especially if “Big Penguin” is out again.
Derrick Rose doesn’t start for New York but he has been outplaying new addition Kemba Walker. Rose is a blistering hot 10-17 from downtown. That’s not something the former MVP has always had in his bag. It will be interesting to see if Rivers tests the laws of regression or has his guards show respect for Rose’s hot shooting start.
The Knicks lost their last game on Sunday to the Magic. They were roasted by Cole Anthony (29 points, 16 rebounds) and Terrence Ross (all of his 22 in the 4th). While we can expect Embiid to feast if he’s active, there should be an opportunity for the Sixers’ guards to hurt Thibodeau’s group. They weren’t able to retain one of their top dogs on the perimeter in Reggie Bullock this off-season. That’s one area they could be vulnerable for attack.
Daryl Morey specifically cited to NBCSP how Furkan Korkmaz has stepped up in Simmons’ absence.
Furkan Korkmaz is averaging 1.18 PPP in the PNR through 3 games (80th percentile)— MRCROCKPOT TPL (@mrcrockpot) October 26, 2021
He's shooting 46.1% (6/13) from 3 with a USG% of 26.7% (career high), he's averaging 6.3 assists per 36 minutes with only 3 TOs in 57 minutes played, he makes 26.3 passes per game (16.5 in 2020-21) pic.twitter.com/4Z971fwfwq
Morey said the team has enjoyed his performance and also leaned on Embiid and Tobias Harris in the early portion of the year. The recipe for success tonight could be a healthy dose of Embiid with some hot shooting from Korkmaz, Seth Curry, and an all-around attack by Harris. Danny Green has yet to make a big impact offensively, maybe the Long-Island native can dazzle the Garden faithful too.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. New York Knicks
When: 7:30 pm ET, October 25, 2021
Where: Madison Square Garden, NYC
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic