76ers-Knicks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 10, 2012
So far this season, it's the Philadelphia 76ers and not the New York Knicks who are upsetting the balance in the Atlantic Division. The Knicks, however, are starting to show signs that they're still capable of doing that. The 76ers look to match their longest winning streak in three years when they face the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night. Heading into the 2011-12 season, the Knicks (5-4) were expected to be the main threat to Boston's run of four straight division titles. Instead it's been Philadelphia (7-2) that has taken on that role. The 76ers lead the Atlantic by two games on second-place New York and are 2 1/2 ahead of the Celtics. "Our guys came back in great shape, we're young, we're resilient," second-year coach Doug Collins said. Philadelphia is one victory shy of matching its seven-game winning streak from Jan. 6-17, 2009, after a dominant performance in a 112-83 win over Sacramento on Tuesday. Elton Brand had 21 points and 10 rebounds after totaling 20 and 15 in his previous three games combined. His 9.6 points per game is a long way from his career 18.7 average. "If we win, I'm happy. I always have confidence in my game," Brand said. "I'm not impatient. I knew eventually my time would come where I'll be the go-to guy." He was certainly that against the Knicks last season, averaging 26.3 points and 9.3 boards as the division rivals split four meetings, including two at MSG. Another big effort from Brand could give the 76ers a sweep of this stretch of three games in three nights. Philadelphia has won four of its last six visits to the Garden, despite losing the most recent 117-103 on Feb. 6. New York enters this matchup with momentum after beating Charlotte 91-87 on Monday for its third straight win. The Knicks have limited opponents to an average of 87.7 points during the streak. Another strong defensive effort was necessary Monday with New York shooting 38.0 percent from the field while hitting just 1 of 10 3-pointers. "There's going to be definitely nights where we've got to lean on our defense, but I think once we start clicking we'll be in the upper 100s and these games will be blowouts," said center Tyson Chandler, who made 7 of 8 shots for 20 points while grabbing 13 rebounds. If the Knicks are going to extend their streak, they'll likely need better shooting performances from Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. Anthony leads the Knicks with an average of 26.6 points, but he's been held to 17.5 while making 34.4 percent of his shots over the last two games after topping 30 in each of the previous three. The star forward is also trying to bounce back from one of his worst shooting efforts of the season, making 6 of 18 from the field and 9 of 13 from the line for 22 points Monday. Anthony had 31 points and 11 rebounds in a 97-92 win at Philadelphia on April 6. Stoudemire sparked the Knicks' win in the last home meeting with the Sixers, scoring 41 points with four blocks. He's averaging 23.8 points and 11.0 boards in four games after missing two with a sprained left ankle. Stoudemire matched his season high with 25 points Monday despite shooting 7 of 25 from the field.
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