A tip-off time of 12 noon in the NBA can often be trouble for both teams. It’s a quirk in the schedule for a league whose players are used to gearing up to perform at their peak sometime after 7:30 p.m., so the broken routine can result in some rough basketball during those early afternoon starts.
That certainly wasn’t the case Sunday afternoon for the Knicks.
New York seemed to pick up right where it left off after its season-opening blowout win over the Heat, and got big performances from Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith on the way to a 100-84 victory over the Sixers — one that really seemed to come fairly easily.
Anthony was aggressive on both ends of the floor from the very start, scoring efficiently from inside and out while busting it on defense at the same time. He had a vicious blocked shot early on, and was seen diving into the stands to chase down loose balls.
The Knicks had excellent ball movement on offense, thanks to Jason Kidd playing alongside Raymond Felton in the starting lineup. And when they needed a little extra firepower, there was J.R. Smith lighting it up from deep off the bench.
Anthony had 15 points by halftime, and finished with 27 on just 18 shots. Smith had 20 points and nine rebounds, and drained four of his five attempts from three-point distance.
The ball movement, spacing on offense, and team defense — all of which have been great for New York consistently through its first eight quarters of the season — are pleasant surprises from a team that hasn’t showed positives there regularly in even one of those categories in a very long time.
The absence of Amar’e Stoudemire due to injury has helped Anthony’s efficiency so far, as he has the space to operate on the wing from mid-range without having a power forward who demands touches on the low block getting in his way. Yes, right now the Knicks are better without Stoudemire, but if he can return as a healthy contributor, Mike Woodson will find a way to integrate him into the offense.
On the Sixers’ side, maybe this was just one of those tough early starts where they were out of sync, or maybe the talent level of the Knicks, along with the energy level they brought this afternoon was too much to match for them at this point. It didn’t help offensively that Jason Richardson left the game just two minutes in with a sprained left ankle, and did not return. Jrue Holiday kept this from being a complete blowout with his 27 points and seven assists, while hitting five out of his six three-point attempts.
Philadelphia will improve greatly whenever Andrew Bynum is able to get back on the floor, but there’s no telling when that might be. In the meantime, these same Sixers will get another crack at the Knicks Monday night at home in Philadelphia to complete the home-and-home series, where it wouldn’t at all be a surprise to see a similar result.