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Everybody’s Gone to the Garden: Knicks Welcome 7-2 Sixers to the Jungle

Jan 11, 2012, 6:11 PM EDT

Nobody would have guessed it pre-season, but the Philadelphia 76ers are the clear favorites in their first visit to MSG this year.

Hey, remember how the Knicks were supposed to be the third best team in
the East this season? OK, it’s a little early still to dance on the
grave of that prediction just yet, and the team is only two games in
back of the Sixers at 5-4, but man, things are not going as planned in
the Big Apple this season thusfar. Carmelo Anthony has been
unquestionably brilliant, averaging a 27-6-4 with the highest PER of his
career, and Amar’e Stoudemire has been a capable second fiddle with his
21 and 9, but prized big man acquisition Tyson Chandler hasn’t really
gotten into the flow yet, the team’s back-court situation is
catastrophic (so much so that the injured Baron Davis, who the Clippers
gave up a lottery pick to get rid of last year, is being awaited as a
potential team savior), and their bench is virtually non-existent—the
Knicks’ “nightshift” scored a whopping three points in their victory
over Charlotte two nights ago.

In other words, as far as winning
teams go, the Knicks have been virtually the polar opposite of the
Sixers this year. The Sixers are incredibly balanced, the Knicks are
impossibly top-heavy. The Sixers rely on their bench for a boost, the
Knicks try to cycle through their bench as quickly and painlessly as
possible. The Sixers have been blowing out inferior teams by scores of
27, 28 and 35, the Knicks beat the Wizards by three and the Bobcats by
four (at home!!). The Sixers play solid, aggressive, team-wide defense,
the Knicks really, really hope that Tyson Chandler will make up for
their mental lapses. There’s no doubt which of the two teams have been
better this season—while Philly (somewhat speciously) tops Hollinger’s
first Power Rankings of the season, the Knicks are down in the 20s.

Still,
the Knicks do have the talent, and they do have the players to put a
real hurting on the Sixers should the team slip at all in the third game
of their first back-to-back-to-back of the season. ‘Melo is a matchup
nightmare for any team, and Amar’e absolutely torched the Sixers at the
Garden last year, averaging 31 points and 11 rebounds in the Sixers’ two
visits to NY. And speaking of the Garden, the Knicks faithful will
undoubtedly be out in full force tonight, a formidable sixth man at any
point in the season, and especially now that their team has won three
straight (against the Wizards, Pistons, and Bobcats, but still) and is
facing a suddenly much-hyped opponent in the Sixers.

7:30 tip from MSG. “It’s interesting that if you’re losing, you’re
losing,” Coach Collins said after last night’s immolation of the now 3-7
Sacramento Kings. “But if you’re
winning, it’s, who are you beating? I don’t get into all that nonsense.
These are all professional teams.” Well, the Ballers are playing against
another professional team tonight, and it won’t be an easy W by any
means, but given the way both teams have played through nine games…you
gotta like our chances. Go Sixers.