Preview: 76ers host the Knicks in James Harden’s home debut
After two wins on the road post All-Star Break, the 76ers are finally back in Wells Fargo Center hosting the New York Knicks. Just as indoor mask mandates are dropped, the Sixers faithful get to officially welcome James Harden to the city of Philadelphia.
The Knicks are coming off a loss to the 76ers on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Currently, New York has lost 15 of their last 18 games, giving them a 25-36 record. Being over ten games under .500 has put the Knicks as the fourth-worst team in the East, four games outside a play-in spot.
The 76ers are currently 37-23, and 2-0 since James Harden took the court dawning the red, white, and blue. With that record Philly sits at the third seed in the East, just three games back from the top spot and two back from taking the second seed from the Bulls.
- Derrick Rose (Out)
- Kemba Walker (Out)
- Nerlens Noel (Out)
- Quentin Grimes (Out)
- Luka Samanic (Out)
Attack the Inside Early
On Sunday the 76ers amassed an insane amount of free throw attempts that helped them grab the victory in Madison Square Garden. In total, the Knicks committed 24 fouls on 76ers players, with ten of them coming from both centers that are healthy on New York’s roster.
Joel Embiid was able to knock starter Mitchell Robinson to the bench early on in the first quarter by battling inside, and with Nerlens Noel out New York had to turn to rookie Jericho Sims. Sims had some success early, but would ultimately land himself in foul trouble as well.
By the time the fourth quarter came around, both Robinson and Sims had fouled out of the game with over seven minutes left in the game.
The Knicks will be just as thin at the center position this game as well, and Philadelphia was able to bury New York on Sunday thanks to Julius Randle having to run the five to close the game out. If the 76ers want to close out the season series against the Knicks with a win, the easiest strategy is to feed Joel and get their centers back into foul trouble.
Doc Rivers’ “New” Rotations
While we are just two games into the new-look 76ers, Doc Rivers has already begun tinkering with different lineups. Prior to Harden hitting the court Rivers made it a point to say he’d keep at least two of Embiid, Harden, Maxey, and Harris on the court at all times. So far, that is much of what Rivers has done, but some of those rotations look much rustier than others.
One of the roughest stretches for the 76ers in that game against the Knicks was the Harden and Harris led lineup. Much of it comes down to Tobias once again struggling to find his groove with so many catch and shoot opportunities being next to James Harden. With the little interior pressure that lineup brought with Harris and Millsap playing the four and five, many of the offensive possessions came down to Harden hero ball.
While Harden was able to capitalize on a couple of the possessions with his offensive skillset, especially in isolation, this can’t always be the solution.
There’s also the issue of guys like Isiah Joe and Paul Reed, who are seeing zero playing time within the new lineup. While the bench is certainly deep with Wille Cauley Stein (though he hasn’t taken the court yet) and soon to be a 76er DeAndre Jordan, there are ways to insert the young guys. Mainly Isiah Joe, who may provide more off the bench then the ever-struggling Furkan Korkmaz. Paul Reed also could find space in a lineup next to James Harden, considering he is one of the most athletic big men on the bench who could get some easy dunks in the pick and roll.
Today’s odds brought to you by Parx Sportsbook, the official gambling partner of The Liberty Line.
|New York Knicks||+410||+10.5 (-110)||O 223 (-110)|
|Philadelphia 76ers||-590||-10.5 (-110)||U 223 (-110)|
This game is the tale of two teams heading in opposite directions. Ten-and-a-half would be a ton to cover, but the fact that this is James Harden’s home debut means I’m hammering everything 76ers. Give me the Sixers to win big, and if you’re looking for more fun player props, click here.
Pick: Sixers -10.5 (-110)
Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz