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The Knicks, looking to snap their season-high four-game losing streak, have mostly remained in control on Sunday night. In fact, they outscored the 76ers 28-18 in the second quarter.
Here are four main observations at the half:
1. Defensive aggressiveness and transition attacking. The Knicks came out with an extra step tonight on defense, showing harder on pick-and-rolls with less switching, playing more physical down low and diving on the floor for loose balls -- all the things they were doing earlier in the season. Right away, Iman Shumpert was all over Jrue Holiday. One time, Shumpert caused the All-Star point guard to fumble the ball, and then he chased it down and turned the play into a Knicks' possession. Even though Shumpert picked up two fouls early on, his ball-hawking was huge.
Inside, Carmelo Anthony (a game-high 18 points) and Tyson Chandler, especially, didn't make anything easy for Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young, who was just returning from a three-week absence dealing with a strained left hamstring. Hawes and Young combined for just four points. On one play, Melo had a great strip on Hawes. And on another, Chandler blocked a shot.
The Knicks' first-half defense -- which also included two steals from Jason Kidd -- fueled them in the open court. They were able to set up quickly in half-court sets and capitalize with easy layups and open 3-pointers as the 76ers scrambled to get back into their defensive setups.
2. Chandler and Stoudemire's impact. There was a stretch towards the end of the first quarter when the 76ers went on a 9-0 run, mostly scoring inside with Chandler on the bench. On the other end, the Knicks weren't able to create as many open lanes to the basket because Chandler wasn't there to free things up. That forced them into more outside shots, which were missed. The Knicks ended the half just 3-for-13 from downtown.
The Knicks were not scoring inside -- that is until Stoudemire got going. After the Sixers went on their run, the power forward caught the ball by the basket and converted a short hook shot. On the following possession, he spun on his defender down low and finished with a one-handed dunk. Then at the start of the second quarter, Stoudemire accounted for the first four points with two offensive tip-ins. He also made a big defensive play in the period, falling out of bounds to keep a ball in play, which resulted in a Knicks' breakaway and a Steve Novak 3-pointer.
STAT scored 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting in 12 minutes of playing time.
3. Second-unit defense drags. When Chandler sat towards the end of the first quarter -- similar to what he did on Friday night against the Raptors -- the Knicks' defense struggled. Chandler not only can keep up with opposing guards, but he's obviously the Knicks' best interior defensive player. When he's out of the game, Anthony, Stoudemire and Novak together in the frontcourt have struggled making stops. This is where Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace and Kenyon Martin are needed.
4. No Kenyon sighting. The Knicks' newest acquisition didn't play in the first half. Mike Woodson made no guarantees before the game that the power forward would. Stay tuned.
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