After a 2-2 road trip without Joel Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers returned home with Joel Embiid back in the lineup and obliterated the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night (even with the deep bench going without scoring for the final eight minutes of the game). With an extra two days of rest under their belt, the Sixers will be back at it again on The Center’s hardwood against the rival New York Knicks.
Despite losing starting center Mitchell Robinson for the season last month due to an ankle injury, the Knicks are hanging in there at 19-15 on the season, 5-5 in their last 10 games. They’ve beaten both the Bucks and the Wolves in the past couple weeks, so they’re certainly capable of punching above their weight and taking down any team on a given night.
Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle are both having strong seasons scoring the ball; the Knicks haven’t had a duo pulling this sort of weight across a two-year period in a long time.
Jalen Brunson (25.6 PPG) & Julius Randle (24.0 PPG) are on track to become the first pair of Knicks teammates to both average 20+ PPG in back-to-back seasons since Walt Frazier & Willis Reed (1969-70, 1970-71). pic.twitter.com/XZ1xiCtnZH— NBA (@NBA) January 3, 2024
Randle is having a poor season shooting the ball from three (28.9 percent), but has dialed down his usage in that area and is concentrating on more efficient looks inside the arc. His 13.3 two-point attempts per game are a career-high. As a result, his .568 true shooting percentage is above his career average, albeit short of some of his best seasons.
Meanwhile, Jalen Brunson has ramped up his game again for a career-best year, with highs in points, assists, usage, and three-point percentage, to name a few. He will be in the All-NBA conversation and is right behind Tyrese Maxey among the top six for All-Star voting among Eastern Conference guards.
Of course, the big news up I-95 is the recent trade of OG Anunoby for RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley. New York is 2-0 with the Anunoby in the lineup, who would seem to be a much better fit alongside Brunson and Randle than Barrett as a less ball-dominant, defensive-minded wing. It’s expected that OG will re-sign in New York this summer given the Leon Rose-CAA connections. Gaining Anunoby in his prime (and potentially keeping him away from the rival Sixers), and getting off Barrett’s long-term contract (on which, opinions are starkly divided), could end up being a huge win for the Knickerbockers. We’ll see what happens this summer, but the Knicks would still seem to be better positioned on the court this year, particular since Thibs seemed unwilling to give Quickley an expanded role.
For the Sixers, De’Anthony Melton, Robert Covington, and Furkan Korkmaz all were absent from practice on Thursday after missing the last Bulls game. Melton was later ruled out for tonight. We’ll see if the other two are able to take the floor tonight.
This is the first meeting between the two teams this season, for what should be a fun matchup on national television. The battle between Maxey and Brunson should be a lot of fun to watch, and it’ll be interesting to see what the Knicks try to do to slow down Joel Embiid (apologies to Isaiah Hartenstein, but I think JoJo will cook). A win over a New York sports team is always a great way to start a weekend. Let’s see it happen.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. New York Knicks
When: 7:30 pm EST
Where: The Center, Philadelphia, PA
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic