Sixers and Knicks set to collide on Christmas Day

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, left, and James Harden watch a free-throw attempt during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks are two of the hottest teams in the NBA for the month of December. On Christmas Day, they kick off a star-studded lineup of games that will have NBA fans glued to the television. While kids finish opening gifts and the frigid temperature makes you want to stay inside all day, the Sixers and Knicks will square off inside Madison Square Garden for the second time on Christmas in Joel Embiid’s career. 

Game Info for Sixers/Knicks

When: Sunday, December 25, 2022

Tipoff: 12:00 pm EST

Where: New York, NY | Madison Square Garden

How to watch: ESPN

The last time these two teams met on this holiday was in 2017, where the Sixers beat the Knicks 105-98 in MSG. The top Sixers scorers that afternoon were Joel Embiid (25) and J.J. Redick (24). For the Knicks, their standout player that day was Enes (Kanter) Freedom, dropping 31 points and grabbing 22 rebounds.

As far as this season goes, Philly and New York played in early November. Without Joel Embiid and James Harden playing, the Sixers relied heavily on Tyrese Maxey, who scored 31 in the game. The Knicks had a more balanced attack, getting better bench production than Philly. The 76ers lost by two points that night, 104-106.

As of lately, the Sixers have not lost a game since December 5th in Houston. In the double-overtime loss, the Sixers just got back James Harden from injury and were out of sync versus the young, inexperienced Rockets. Since then, the 76ers have won seven consecutive games and established themselves as a top defensive team in the NBA.

On Friday night, the Sixers roared back in the second half against the L.A. Clippers. When it seemed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George had the Sixers on their heels, Doc Rivers’ team went on a run that Tye Lue could not counter. Led by Joel Embiid’s 44 points and James Harden’s historic 21-assist night, the 76ers scored at will in the paint and limited turnovers for a solid come-back victory. 

The Knicks had an impressive win streak going until back-to-back losses against Toronto and Chicago. In the most recent loss versus the Bulls, DeMar DeRozan knocked down a jumper to give the Knicks only their second loss in ten games. The Knicks have surprised many fans this year with their record. Much of their success comes from the addition of Jalen Brunson.

The former Villanova guard leads the Knicks in assists per game (6.4) and averages 20.1 points per game. He signed a 4-year $104 million deal with New York in the offseason and has delivered as expected after a great postseason run with the Dallas Mavericks last year.

The Knicks also have Julius Randle, who is having a productive season as well. He leads the team in points per game (22.7), rebounds (9.4), and shooting at 46.6 percent. His frontcourt mate, Mitchell Robinson, is a top shot-blocker in the league, averaging 1.8 blocks, good for sixth in the NBA.

Expect a lot of screens for Brunson in the pick-and-roll situation. According to NBA CourtOptix, Robinson and Randle screen for their point guard over 20 times per game.

The Knicks’ reserves offer relief for their starters and come into this game putting up 33.1 bench points per game, good for 16th in the NBA. The 76ers, whose bench has been better this year, are averaging 27.5 points per game. Although Philly has a top-heavy scoring attack with their starters, they will need more balance against a balanced scoring attack versus the Knicks, who average 114.5 points as a team. 

As of today, both teams are not too far off from the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Sixers are only three games behind Boston, and the Knicks are only five games away from being in first. New York has struggled at home, with a record of 8-9 at MSG. The 76ers are subpar on the road with a record of 5-7 away from the Wells Fargo Center.

These two historic franchises will square off in Madison Square Garden this Christmas Day and launch a series of games that NBA fans always anticipate with great excitement. Will Joel Embiid dominate the Knicks as he’s done throughout the Sixers’ current tear? Will the Knicks gain ground on Philly in the standings with a win on their home floor? With wrapping paper scattered everywhere and our holiday pajamas still on, we will all see come 12:00 pm on Christmas Day. 

Interesting Sixers rankings:

  •  2nd in NBA: 107.6 points allowed 
  •  1st in NBA: opponent 3-point shooting percentage (32.7 %)
  •  25th in NBA: turnovers per game (15.3)
  •  9th in NBA: deflections per game (15.1)