The Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks are two of the NBA’s most iconic franchises, but they have been trending in starkly different directions over the last few seasons. The 76ers underwent an infamously aggressive rebuilding process that saw them essentially lose games on purpose for a handful of years in an attempt to rebuild the team around the best possible draft picks. While the idea was all sorts of controversial at the time, the Sixers are certainly reaping the benefits now.
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The Knicks, meanwhile, are stuck in the middle. New York’s brass seems to think this is a team on the verge of contention, but they just can’t seem to get out of their own way. Now, they are clearly trending toward a full teardown. Franchise cornerstone Kristaps Porzingis was surprisingly traded to Dallas just ahead of the deadline earlier this month. The Knicks may have big aspirations of luring free agents to the Big Apple this summer, but for now this looks like the worst team the NBA has to offer.
The following odds are courtesy of our live odds feed:
|2019 ATS Home||16-14-0||9-15-2|
|2019 ATS Away||11-16-0||14-15-1|
|2019 O/U Home||16-14-0||10-16-0|
|2019 O/U Away||13-14-0||17-13-0|
The Sixers announced their contention plans by trading for Jimmy Butler earlier this season, and they did so again by nabbing Tobias Harris away from the L.A. Clippers prior to the trade deadline. The addition of Harris arguably gives Philly the most loaded starting 5 this side of Golden State. Harris has fit in nicely alongside Butler, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and J.J. Redick.
Philadelphia got off to a 2-0 start with Harris before faltering last night. Despite hosting a downtrodden Celtics team missing its best player, the Sixers were beaten 112-109 on their home floor. Embiid struggled quite a bit on both ends of the floor against Al Horford. Horford racked up 23 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals while limiting Embiid to “just” 23 points on 9-22 shooting from the field.
Obviously, tonight presents a good bounce-back spot for Embiid. Horford is a pesky defender, and Embiid has struggled against him in the past. New York did upgrade their center defense by getting DeAndre Jordan back in the Porzingis trade, but Jordan’s status as an elite interior defender has always been a bit of an overstatement. He’s a good shot-blocker, but his overall defense pales in comparison to Horford’s.
On the season, the Knicks rank just 19th in defensive efficiency against the center position. That may improve over the season’s final few months with Jordan, but this is a spot in which Embiid should thrive tonight.
The Sixers will go from facing one of the stingiest defensive teams in basketball to arguably the worst in the game tonight in New York. Philadelphia canned just 9 of their 27 attempts from beyond the arc last night, with Harris (0-6) and Embiid (2-8) being particularly cold. The Sixers also connected on just 22 of their 31 free throws. The 71 percent mark was likely the difference in last night’s game.
Clearly, Brett Brown is going to lean heavily on his starters. All 5 starters played at least 35 minutes in last night’s game, while no reserve played more than Jonathon Simmons’ 15 minutes.
The loss was a pretty important one for Philadelphia, as it dropped the 76ers to fifth in the Eastern Conference standings. They are tied at 36-21 with the Celtics, but Boston currently owns the tiebreaker by virtue of their 3-0 head-to-head record against the 76ers so far this season. So, if the two teams finish the season with the same record, Boston will get the higher playoff seed.
The Knicks have the worst record in the NBA. New York is just 10-46 on the season, which is a bit shocking considering the roster does appear to have some decent building blocks. Jordan is likely a goner after the season, but guys like Noah Vonleh and Dennis Smith Jr. look like pieces that could be useful moving forward.
Smith Jr. was the big get for the Knicks in the Porzingis trade. The 21-year-old struggled to fit in with Dallas next to Luka Doncic, so the Mavericks decided to ship him out of town in just his second season. His shooting has been iffy, but he has been decent overall since moving to New York. In 5 games as a Knick, Smith is averaging 17.4 points, 6 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game in over 32 minutes a night.
As mentioned, the shooting is suspect. Smith has hit just 21.7 percent of his looks from 3-point range as a Knick. That should come up considering he’s at 31.6 percent for his brief career, but Dallas’ questions about his shaky shooting have not yet been answered with a change of scenery.
The Knicks’ current run cannot be overstated. New York enters Wednesday night’s game against the 76ers having lost each of their last 17 games, which is the longest losing streak in the league this season. New York has won a grand total of 1 game in the last 2 months. The Knicks were beaten by the Cleveland Cavaliers in their last game in a matchup between what has to be the 2 worst teams in the league. The fact that New York couldn’t even get a win over a Cavs team missing a few starters tells you all you need to know about their futility.
The Knicks’ last win was a victory over the Lakers in Los Angeles back on January 4. Their last win before that was a win over the Hornets on December 14. That win snapped a 5-game losing streak, and it preceded an 8-game skid. 2 of the Knicks’ last 3 wins were overtime affairs, as well.
One of the few bright spots for the Knicks this season has been rookie Mitchell Robinson. Robinson hasn’t gotten a ton of buzz at all this season, but the Western Kentucky product has quietly started to look like a steal. Robinson is averaging 2 blocks per game this season. That remarkably ranks sixth in the league per game despite the fact that he is only averaging 17.6 minutes of action a night.
The Sixers let us down in a big way last night, but I’m not letting that scare me away. Philly struggled with the Celtics’ experienced defense, but they should have little issue slicing and dicing their way through the Knicks tonight. On the season, the Knicks have allowed 110.9 points per 100 possessions, which is the fourth-worst defense in the league.
New York has also been futile offensively. Smith is an inefficient scorer, and the same can be said of rookie Kevin Knox. Kadeem Allen, who spent all of last year in the G League, led the Knicks in scoring in their last game with 25. We know that’s not happening again tonight. I just don’t know where the Knicks are going to get consistent offense on a nightly basis these days.
New York has failed to crack 100 points in 4 of the 6 games since the Porzingis trade that also sent Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke out of town. Hardaway and Burke aren’t great players, but both are capable scorers. Without them, New York’s offense runs dry an awful lot.
This will be the fourth and final meeting of the season between the Atlantic Division rivals. As you may have expected, the 76ers have won each of the first 3 games. They took the first showdown 117-91 back on November 28. They followed that up with a 131-109 win at home a few weeks later, and they most recently came away with a 108-105 win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 13.
This should be a rout. The Sixers having played a tough game last night could mean there are some tired legs tonight, but I would take a tired 76ers team to throttle this iteration of the Knicks any day of the week. Philly being a 9-point favorite tonight just looks too generous to me.
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