Knicks continue impressive start by taking care of Sixers

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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.

James Harden scores 61, ties Kobe Bryant’s Madison Square Garden visitor’s record (VIDEO)

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James Harden has been on a Wilt Chamberlain-level streak the past few weeks, it’s unlike anything we have seen in the modern NBA.

Wednesday night he topped himself.

James Harden scored 61 points against the Knicks. That would be:

• Harden’s career high.
• Tied with Kobe Bryant for most points scored by an opponent in Madison Square Garden (Carmelo Anthony holds the overall record at 62).
• A Rockets’ franchise record.
• His 21st consecutive 30-point game, tying Chamberlain for fourth-longest such streak in league history.

Oh, and Harden had the seal and dunk that sealed the win.

Harden also had 15 rebounds in the game. The last player to have 60+ points and 15+ rebounds in a game? Some guy named Shaquille O’Neal back on March 6, 2000, with the Lakers.

Harden is playing like an MVP — and the banged-up Rockets need him to if they are to have a chance to win every night.

Report: Wizards not trading Bradley Beal, but if team slips Otto Porter could be available

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The Washington Wizards have won 7-of-10 and have climbed up to the nine seed, just a couple of games out of the playoffs in the East. Without John Wall, the Wizards are making a push to get into the postseason.

Which impacts whether they are willing to trade players at the deadline.

The Wizards are not trading Bradley Beal — the most coveted of their stars — but might be open to Otto Porter trades if the team slides back, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Wizards star guard Bradley Beal is not going anywhere, which Washington has made adamantly clear, league sources told The Athletic. Depending on how the next week to two weeks shape up, the Wizards could look more aggressively toward moving Otto Porter. The Utah Jazz have been an interested suitor for Porter, league sources said.

History suggests the Wizards will not be sellers. The pattern for owner Ted Leonsis and GM Ernie Grunfeld has always been to think short term and make the playoff push, even when it was not the smart thing to do. We should expect that again. Maybe Washington crawls into one of the final playoff slots in the East, but is that the smart play?

Don’t expect the Wizards to move Porter, even if they wanted to finding a team to take on his $26 million for 13 points a game this season would be difficult (although Utah would be a good fit), plus Porter is owed $27.3 million next season and has a player option he very likely will pick up for $28.5 million two seasons from now.

Pacers’ Victor Oladipo stretchered off court after scary knee injury (VIDEO)

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Let’s hope this is not as scary as it looks.

Pacers’ All-NBA, All-Star guard Victor Oladipo was trying to defend a length-of-the-court pass to Pascal Siakam when Oladipo went down with a brutal knee injury were his kneecap was clearly not in the right place. Oladipo had to be taken off the court on a stretcher. The video is below, but be warned this is not pretty.

The team’s official announcement called the injry “serious.”

Oladipo is the Pacers’ best player and was a lock to be an All-Star reserve averaging 19.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.2 assists a game this season in Indiana. His efficiency had dropped his season as teams game planned more for him. Beyond that, you’d be hard pressed to find a kinder, more genuine person around the NBA than Oladipo.

Quickly the NBA community rallied on social media to Oladipo.

Grizzlies franchise burning down. Literally. They had a locker room fire Wednesday.

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Things have seemed like they are burning down around the Grizzlies the past few weeks: The team has lost 12-of-13 games and now long-time franchise stars Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are on the trade block.

Now the franchise is on fire — literally. They had a locker room fire in the FedEx Forum, which fortunately was small and no one was injured.

Fortunately, there were no injuries or serious damage.

But this seems about right for the Grizzlies lately.