WHAT IT MEANS: The Bucks (16-24) and Cavaliers (15-23) must be feeling really good about their playoff chances as the window for the eighth seed in the East is opening more and more as the Knicks continue to falter.
Sunday afternoon at the Garden, the Knicks lost their fifth game in a row, falling to the Atlantic Division-leading Sixers (25-17), 106-94, and dropping five games below .500 to 18-23. The Knicks scored just 92 points, while allowing their opponent to score more than 100 for the third straight game.
TURNING POINT: When the Knicks collapsed like a lung in the third quarter. In fact, entering Sunday, the Knicks had the worst average third-quarter scoring margin in the NBA (-8.3 points), due to losses to the Mavericks, Spurs and Bucks. Today, the Sixers outscored the Knicks 38-24 in the period, and never looked back.
THE BAD: 1. After scoring four fastbreak points in the first quarter, the Sixers scored nine in the second by forcing the Knicks into five turnovers. That sparked the Sixers on a 11-5 run to close the half leading 51-49. For the game, the Knicks had a total of 16 turnovers.
2. Landry Fields' defense on Evan Turner. The Sixers' second-year player scored seven points in the first quarter. Turner never lost his rhythm from that point, as he finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds.
3. That "defensive lapse," which Mike D'Antoni and the Knicks' players said can't happen during a game. Well, it happened during the third quarter, when the Knicks played "swiss-cheese D," as MSG Network color analyst Walt Frazier calls it.
THE GOOD: 1. Carmelo Anthony's hot start and strong performance. The Knicks' leading scorer (21.3 points per game) had been under the microscope during the Knicks' four-game losing streak, and even after getting booed during pregame introductions, he wasn't fazed. He scored 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting in the first quarter, finishing with 22 points. He was also aggressive around the rim, going 11-for-12 from the foul line and collecting nine rebounds.
2. The Knicks' pick-and-roll defense. Guarding opposing point guards has been more of a struggle recently for the Knicks, especially in Tyson Chandler's absence. Since last Sunday, Rajon Rondo, Jason Kidd, Tony Parker and Brandon Jennings all had big scoring and dishing nights. Today, while Sixers' leading scorer Louis Williams (15.9 points per game) scored a game-high 28 points off the bench, he only had two assists and three turnovers, and his starting counterpart, Jrue Holiday, only had eight points (2-for-14 shooting) and three assists and two turnovers.
3. The Knicks' foul shooting. In the past month, they have been fourth-worst in free throw percentage (70.7). But Sunday, led by Melo's accuracy, the Knicks finished 18-for-22 (81.8 percent) from the charity stripe.
WHAT'S NEXT: Two words: Derrick Rose. The Knicks hop on a flight later Sunday to travel to Chicago to prepare for Monday night's matchup against arguably the league's best point guard and his Central Division-leading Bulls (34-9).
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