Originally posted on Buzz On Broad  |  Last updated 1/11/12

Heading into the season, NBA experts were so high on the New York Knicks after their acquisition of Tyson Chandler that they anointed them the would-be champions of the Atlantic Division and one of the few teams that could compete with the likes of Miami and Chicago. Their combination of superstars is unquestionable on paper, yet when it comes to their play on the court, the Knicks just aren’t as coherent as many expected.

The Knicks (5-4) have suffered some disappointing losses to the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors, but they have finally begun to string together some wins.  During their three-game win streak, the Knicks have received superb efforts by their big three: Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler.

Stopping those three All-Star caliber players is what the Philadelphia 76ers (7-2) will be focusing on tonight as they head away from the friendly confines of the Wells Fargo Center to New York’s storied Madison Square Garden.

The most dangerous of the big three, Carmelo Anthony, ranks among the lead leaders in scoring, ranking third with 26.6 ppg behind LeBron James (29.7) and Kobe Bryant (29.5). Aside from his slip-up against the Detroit Pistons in which he finished with just 13 points after shooting 5-14, Anthony has scored 22 or more points in every game during the month of January and in seven of nine games this season. He started the month off averaging 34.6 ppg in the first three games, yet the Knicks lost in two of those games. The former standout at Syracuse is so lethal that sometimes when he starts getting in a groove, he loses sight of his teammates and tries to be a one-man show.

And if it doesn’t become a one-man show, it turns into a two-man show featuring Anthony and Stoudemire. The former Phoenix Sun is second on the team with 19.4 ppg and a team-high 8.9 rpg. While Melo continues to collect 30+ scoring games, Stoudemire has displayed his consistency in averaging 22 or more points during the month of January. In all four games he played this month, Stoudemire is averaging 23.7 ppg.

Between the two superstars, the Knicks receive around 50 points per game. Unfortunately for New York, though, that’s about half of the team’s production.

The Knicks have two other double-digit scorers this season, one of which has been a surprise so far. As mentioned before, the Knicks brought in Chandler this offseason to provide much needed help on defense and a major physical presence in the paint. Nine games into his Knick career, Chandler is doing what he was brought into do, averaging 12.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg, and 1.8 bpg. The bright spot on this team, aside from the “Melo & Amare Show,” is the impact their first-round selection has had so far. Iman Shumpert, who was drafted in the first-round with the 17th pick this year, is third on the team in scoring with 13.2 ppg, 3.6 apg and 4.0 rpg. Early on, though, Shumpert was hit with an injury that sidelined him for four games in late December and early January. Since his return, the Knicks have gone 3-1.

Anthony, Stoudemire, Chanler and Shumpert combine for slightly over 75% of the Knicks scoring. In comparison, the Sixers top four scorers (Williams, Holliday, Iguodala, and Young) are responsible for just 55% of the Sixers’ offensive production. It’s often discussed how the Sixers are one of the deepest teams in the league; in contrast, the Knicks run with a very weak bench and in all honesty, they have a four-deep team.

The Sixers are riding a six-game winning streak and are off to an unbelievable start, ranking first in both opponents scoring (85.6 ppg) and field goal defense (39.2%). Stemming off of this, the Sixers lead the league in points differential at +16.0 ppg.

However, the Knicks pose a real threat to the Sixers because of their front court. Stoudemire and Chandler will create a very challenging matchup for Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes (who is listed as a game-time decision). The Sixers are outscoring the opposition in the paint so far 42.4 to 38.9, which is a considerable upgrade from last season. The Sixers will try to counter the play of New York’s front court by instituting their energetic and effective “night shift” players. The bench has scored 40 or more points in all but one game this season and has compiled an average of 45.0 ppg, which ranks second in the NBA behind Dallas.

The Sixers have done their job in steamrolling over weaker opponents this season and they nearly topped the Portland Trailblazers (7-2), losing on the final possession. If the Sixers can keep up their level of play on both sides of the ball, Philadelphia will be on their way to winning three consecutive games, which has only been done once this season by the Oklahoma City Thunder (9-2). 

Be sure to follow Kyle on Twitter @Kyle_Phillippi!

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