While we are not quite at the point in the season where every loose ball and uncontested jumper takes on added signficance, it does feel like, even before All-star break, each game is important in defining the Knicks' season. The upcoming home-and-home against division rival, the 76ers, looms huge in influencing not only the Knicks' eventual playoff position, but whether they have a place in the post-season at all. The 76ers, under the stewardship of a passionate Doug Collins, has started to jell combining the strong inside presence of Elton Brand with the up-tempo running attack that had given the Knicks fits before Eddie Jordan tried to reshape the team. These games may not be must-wins, but they are must-not-lose or they could also lose the psychic momentum that ignites the energy and effort which has made them moderately successful.
To help us gain a better understanding of this rivalry, we caught up with esteemed Sixers blogger Ricky of Sixers4guidos, an excellent self-proclaimed Italian blog (boy, do they pine over da Rooster). Check out what he has to say and let us know whether you hyink he's on to something. You can also visit our Bloguin cousin at Sixers4guidos where we answered some very good questions from him.
What has happened to the Sixers that they are playing so well with Elton Brand?.
Pretty simple, they simply have a decent coach this year and they are healthy, just as much as Brand.
Elton has been very consistent through the whole year so far, producing well on both ends of the court and working as a mentor for his young teammates. Yes, he's still way overpaid for what he gives, but at least he's playing his butt off every night and puts up good numbers. He still has troubles finishing in traffic. He will never be as explosive as he was in his best years etc etc, but the shooting touch is there -- same for the rebounding ability.
You won't find a Sixer fan complaining about Brand's efficiency or attitude this year, even the many ones that just hope that someone will trade for him !!
Has Doug Collins turned out to be a much better coach now than he was at his last NBA gig?
Well we were coming from a year with Eddie Jordan so maybe even Johnny Davis would have been an upgrade. . . . Seriously, he is a great teacher, he's tough and very supportive of the players. Still, it can't be denied that he must have played a part in Sixers' countless, unbelievable collapses in the final minutes of many games, the horrible record in close games etc. And the rotations are often questionable: in the first games of the year Kapono was the starter at SF, Nocioni went from starter to getting multiple DNP CDs etc etc.... Sixers could/should have been above .500 easily.
I think that a couple of years with Collins will help the young players' growth, while I don't think he can carry us to the upper level (= becoming an elite team in the Conference).
What should we expect from the Sixers offensively against the Knicks?
Not much different than what they try to do on a daily basis: run, run, run and get easy points in transition. The less they face set up defense, the better they perform. The bench scoring has been a huge lift for us all year. Get ready for 2nd quarter breaks when Young, Williams, Turner, Speights etc will check in.
What should we expect defensively against the Knicks?
They will try to put pressure on the ball (Jrue Holiday is good in that) and Iguodala will do his usual job trying to shut down his opponent (probably Gallinari, but he can guard SGs as well). Sixers never play zone.
How will they defend Stoudemire?
I don't expect many double teams, we didn't do that even with Dwight Howard. Since Stoudamire is also a threat from the perimeter, facing the basket, maybe we will see Brand on him just as much as Hawes. What is 100% sure is that neither of them can guard him effectively, lol.
Do you think the 76ers will place higher then the Knicks for a playoff spot? How much?
Good question, I think on paper they are pretty close as for overall talent, but Knicks have more reliable options down the stretch, and that's the reason of the difference in Ws. If Sixers had a good "closer" such as Stoudamire, a guy to give the ball to for the last shots with a decent chance to see them going in, maybe our records would be opposite....