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Knicks vs. 76ers Preview: How, Who to Watch in Rivalry Doubleheader Opener

The New York Knicks face a crucial doubleheader against the Philadelphia 76ers as things tighten up on the Eastern Conference leaderboard.

The Philadelphia 76ers have endured some brutal injuries as they've tumbled down the Eastern Conference leaderboard. Their Sunday opponent will hardly sympathize. 

Depleted divisional rivals will do battle on Sunday night, as the 76ers head to Madison Square Garden to face the New York Knicks. Sunday's game will be the first of an instant doubleheader between New York and Philadelphia as an immediate rematch lands on Tuesday. 

The Knicks are Sixers are currently caught up in the five-team logjam that makes up the fourth through eighth seeds on the Eastern Conference playoff bracket. New York leaped back into fourth on Friday with a dominating 98-74 victory over the Orlando Magic. Despite the continued absences of OG Anunoby, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson, the Knicks put forth one of the most dominant defensive efforts in recent memory, as no team has allowed few points in a single NBA game this season. 

Burdened by the respective absences of Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, the seventh-place 76ers have dropped three in a row and seven of 10 including a 103-95 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday. Both Embiid (meniscus) and Maxey (concussion are listed as out for Sunday's game, as are Robert Covington (knee) and De'Anthony Melton (back).

The Knicks will look to secure their first sweep of the Sixers since the 2015-16 season. This season's Philadelphia portion yielded blowout victories for the Knicks, including a 110-96 triumph on Feb. 22 that served as the post-All Star opener for each side. 

What: Philadelphia 76ers (35-28) @ New York Knicks (37-26) 

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

When/Watch: Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, MSG/ESPN

Who's Favored: NYK -5.5

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Keep An Eye On: Isaiah Hartenstein

The Knicks' injury situation has gotten wary enough that Hartenstein is playing on a sore Achilles and he's slowly starting to ramp things up again: while Harenstein hasn't played more than 22 minutes since missing Feb. 27's loss to New Orleans, he's making the most of his evolving time: over the past four games, he has pulled in 25 rebounds, swatted six shots and dished out a season-best eight assists last Sunday in Cleveland. With Embiid out, Hartenstein has a major opportunity to wreak havoc in the interior, even if he's not granted his usual workload. 

Sixer to Watch: Kyle Lowry

Maxey's injury made the decision to bring Lowry back to Philadelphia seem particularly timely. Despite Lowry's advanced age and the Sixers' continuing struggles, he has gotten a bit of a second wind in a larger role, tipping off March with 43 points and 29 assists over his first four showings. As a crucial doubleheader awaits on the road, Lowry (part of the Knicks most recent elimination as a member of the Miami Heat) will be relied upon as a sense of stability in a season that's slowly getting away from Philadelphia's replacements.

They Said It

“He’s done terrific. He continues to get better. He’s played really well, he plays both sides of the ball. He’s getting valuable experience. He can play with Jalen [Brunson], he can play without him. He’s done a really good job.” -head coach Tom Thibodeau on Miles McBride (h/t Stefan Bondy, New York Post)


The schedule may look manageable on paper but the Knicks would be wise to take advantage of any depressed, depleted, downtrodden group that stand in their path as they look to continue climbing up the Eastern Conference standings. Sweeping the reeling 76ers would be a great start and, while things can get a little awkward on a Sunday, there's no reason to doubt New York after the momentum established on Friday against the Magic.

Knicks 107, 76ers 100