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Game Preview: 76ers at Knicks — 2/5/23

What do the Knicks need? A DNP for Joel Embiid.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re like me, the biggest sports story of the day, pre-Knicks/76ers, is that Manchester City had a chance to pull within two points of Arsenal atop the Premier League table but fell 1-0 to Harry Kane at White Hart Lane. If you’re pretty much any other sports fan, the biggest news today is that Kyrie Irving is the Dallas Mavericks latsest Dennis Smith Jr. Kristaps Porziņģis Spencer Dinwiddie, i.e. the Robin who’ll inspire Luka Dončić’s Batman to continue his one-man fight against all odds. Believe it or not, the Irving trade may signal a new dawn in Knicks history.

From the 2015 season through now, the Knicks cannot win games against their own division. This is a problem, as they often play about 20% of their games against the division. This year they’re 3-7 so far, a worse winning percentage than they had their first two years under Tom Thibodeau. Replacing Kyrie with Dinwiddie, the Crypto Mamba, may bring stability to a Nets franchise that feels like it built the Barclays Center over a sacred burial ground directly atop a tectonic fault line. It may also give the Knicks a breather in division tilts.

The Philadelphia 76ers will not give the Knicks a breather, even with Joel Embiid questionable for tonight’s game with a sore left foot. That’s because the Sixers, winners of nine of 10 games and breathing own Boston’s neck for the East’s top spot, are more than their Cameroonian star. A lot of players might gripe about being snubbed from All-Star selection in a year they put up 21 and 11 on 45/40/86 shooting, but something tells me James Harden will find some way to have fun over the break. Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris average 20 and 16 a game on plus-shooting from 3. Georges Niang can stroke from deep, too, as Knicks fans know all too well. De’Anthony Melton and P.J. Tucker have brought defensive punch. And though the memories are yellowing, Doc Rivers has coached a title winner before.

The Knicks come off last night’s overtime loss to the L.A. Clippers, the kind of L that should be illegal for all its cruelty. Tonight is a chance for the Knicks to win their best home game all season — and don’t look now, but New York’s played about 70% of its home games already and is still a losing team at home. Maybe that’s brilliant, especially for a team that’s likely to make the playoffs as the visiting team in all its series. But also it’d be nice to not be the only halfway-decent team in the Association that can’t win at home. Spare me the “Opposing players get up to play at MSG!” tripe; two years ago the Knicks were 25-11 at home.

This is also their penultimate game before the All-Star break, with only a midweek march on Atlanta between now and then. All kinds of reasons they wanna head into the Hawks game off a positive note. If Embiid plays, Isaiah Hartenstein and Jericho Sims may wanna start their downtime early. Even if he doesn’t, it’s the kind of game the Knicks can win — they beat the Sixers earlier this season in Philly — but one they haven’t at home. Come on you Knicks! Let Philadelphia leave town with their tail between their legs and an orange-and-blue moon risen over them.