Philadelphia 76ers

Sixers at Knicks: 3 Storylines to Watch for Matchup at Madison Square Garden

Can Sixers keep up stellar early work behind the arc? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Last time the Sixers visited Madison Square Garden, they escaped with an overtime victory on March 21 despite several befuddling crunch-time lapses.

However it comes, they’d surely be pleased with another road win Tuesday night and a 3-1 start to their 2021-22 season. 

Joel Embiid (right knee soreness) and Andre Drummond (right ankle sprain) are questionable. Ben Simmons (personal reasons), Shake Milton (right ankle sprain) and Grant Riller (left knee injury recovery) are out. Jaden Springer and Aaron Henry are two of the players at Delaware Blue Coats training camp. 

The Knicks' Nerlens Noel (left knee soreness) is questionable.

Here are the essentials for the Sixers’ matchup with the 2-1 Knicks:  

  • When: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Madison Square Garden 
  • Broadcast: TNT 

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Early behind-the-arc success 

Through three games, here’s how the Sixers rank in the following categories according to Cleaning the Glass, which filters out garbage time:

  • 1st in three-point percentage (45.4 percent) 
  • 18th in three-point frequency (36.1 percent)
  • 9th in defensive three-point percentage (33.3 percent) 
  • 4th in defensive three-point frequency (33.3 percent) 

All of those numbers are positive. Even the three-point frequency statistic is a significant improvement as the Sixers have taken nearly five percent more of their shots from behind the arc compared to last season. 

The logical question is whether this success is sustainable. The long-range accuracy almost certainly isn’t, in part because a 76.5 percent three-point shooting season from Seth Curry would be an all-time sporting accomplishment. It’s also fair to assume opponents won’t make just a third of their non-garbage time threes against the Sixers all season. That current figure is skewed by the Thunder’s 8-for-31 three-point showing Sunday.

We’ll take a look again once the Sixers have accumulated a heftier sample size, but the (very) early results are good. 

New Knicks scorers 

The Knicks aimed to make offensive upgrades this offseason, adding Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier as their starting guards. The Sixers will also have to defend Derrick Rose, Alec Burks and Immanuel Quickley off the bench.

Someone besides Simmons will need to guard RJ Barrett. Simmons was tremendous last season on Barrett, who shot 5 for 20 (0 for 7 from three) when defended by the three-time All-Star. If Danny Green gets that assignment, one of Curry or Tyrese Maxey would be on Fournier and conceding about four inches in height. 

New York should be motivated to pick up a bounce-back win after falling to the Magic on Sunday at the Garden and allowing second-year guard Cole Anthony to post 29 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists. 

Will Joe break the ice? 

Isaiah Joe was the Sixers’ top preseason scorer. In the regular season, he’s played 27 minutes, missed all six of his field-goal attempts and scored no points. 

He should have another chance against the Knicks with Milton still out. His opportunities likely would be infinite, though, unless he can find his form again.  

Danny Green has been impressed with the Sixers’ bench thus far and is hoping to see the preseason version of Joe soon.

“It was a different story last year,” Green told reporters Sunday in Oklahoma City. “Our bench is something we had to try to figure out. This year, they’re a plus. ... They’re moving the ball and they’re playing well, even with Andre being out. But with him being in there, he grabs a lot of rebounds, he makes a lot of plays for us defensively in the pick-and-roll — and rolling to the basket. He’s not just looking for scoring; he’s looking for guys on the weak side.

“So the ball moves pretty well and they get some good, open looks. We see Georges (Niang) get some shots ... (Furkan Korkmaz), Matisse (Thybulle), Isaiah — I hope we get Isaiah rolling one of these games — but I love the way they’re playing, their pace and how they’re trusting each other.”

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