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The new-look Sixers ride into New York on Sunday afternoon fresh off a mammoth win over the Timberwolves in James Harden’s debut. Can they capitalize on a wounded Knicks team fresh off a tough loss? Let’s take a closer look at this one.
Can 76ers Replicate Harden’s Debut Magic?
James Harden debuted to great acclaim on Friday night in a huge 133-102 win over the Timberwolves, helping Philly to a 130.4 offensive rating — its biggest of the season. The offensive explosion was complete with plenty of great passing from Harden, who was able to get Joel Embiid some great looks at the rim and Tobias Harris and others open looks on the permieter.
The Sixers also allowed just 100 points per 100 possessions, following up on a month which saw them rank 12th in defensive efficiency with 112 points allowed per 100 possessions. A beefed up offensive attack coupled with steady defense is bad news for opponents.
Philly has now won four of five and covered in three of those games, and it is now a blistering 19-11 against the spread on the road, covering in 63.3% of games. It is also 9-7 ATS as the road favorite.
The Sixers aren’t dealing with any injuries at the moment, which gives them a leg up on the Knicks in that regard. They will continue working the ball down low to Joel Embiid with their full compliment of shooters and playmakers available.
Knicks Have Entered Player Progression Mode
The Knicks have failed to cover in 10 of the last 12 games and seem to be trending fast in the wrong direction. On top of that, they’ve now lost promising young guard Quentin Grimes for at least two weeks after he dislocated his kneecap in Friday’s loss to the Heat.
That game was at least promising for the Knicks, who were able to cut the deficit to five late in the fourth quarter with strong play from Immanuel Quickley and Julius Randle. New York only managed a 97.1 offensive rating against the mighty Heat, but it can hang its hat on a 111.7 defensive rating against a competent offense. It snapped a long streak of bad performances on defense and offered hope for the second half of the season.
The news that Derrick Rose will miss an extended period, coupled with the increased playing time of Cam Reddish, the benching of Kemba Walker and the injury to Quentin Grimes seems to make clear, though, that these last couple of months will be about the growth of the Knicks’ youth. Results don’t seem like the most important aspect of the season anymore, rather the improvement of this core.
New York is capable of shocking a good team like Philadelphia, but it remains far more likely that it plays well in spurts before ultimately falling.
The Knicks played great defense against the Heat to keep that game close, and while the Sixers did showcase some incredible offense on Friday, I see this as a big-time letdown spot.
These two teams rank 14th and 25th in pace in February, and they both played incredible defense last time out. With a little shooting variance kicking in on both sides, I think we will see a lower-scoring game.
Pick: Under 215.5 (-110)