1. The Knicks faced a daunting task in their return to action on Thursday night in Cleveland. Against the defending champs, New York fell 119-104 despite an explosive first quarter where the home team netted 33 points. LeBron James posted a triple-double and Kyrie Irving scored 23 points to lead the Cavaliers to the victory in the final matchup between the two teams this season.
2. Kristaps Porzingis was forced to leave Thursday’s game with sprained ankle that was suffered late in the second quarter. X-rays were not taken following the contest and it’s strictly considered a sprained ankle. With that said, Porzingis will not suit up on Saturday night against Philadelphia and his availability is in jeopardy with the Toronto Raptors heading to town for a Monday night tilt at The Garden.
3. Joakim Noah will miss his seventh straight game tonight due to sore hamstring. Without Noah in the starting lineup, head coach Jeff Hornacek has placed Willy Hernangomez at the center spot of late and brought Kyle O’Quinn off the bench. Porzingis’ absence in the lineup may lead to both O’Quinn and Hernangomez in the starting frontcourt or a small group that moves Carmelo Anthony to the power forward position and Lance Thomas at the 3.
4. Philadelphia’s busy week has included unfortunate news surrounding its No. 1 overall pick and a trade that involved its former sixth overall pick from the 2013 NBA Draft. The Sixers announced Ben Simmons, the top draft pick in 2016, has been ruled out for the remainder of the season. A test revealed that his broken right foot has not fully healed. On the trade front, Philadelphia shipped Nerlens Noel to Dallas in exchange for Andrew Bogut (expected to be bought out), Justin Anderson, and a conditional first-round pick. Ersan Ilyasova was also dealt before the trade deadline in a deal with the Hawks that resulted in Philadelphia receiving Tiago Splitter and draft considerations. The roster shake-up leaves the Sixers a bit thin as Joel Embiid remains sidelined with a left knee contusion. However, Philadelphia earned a surprising win over the red-hot Wizards last night, 120-112. Jahlil Okafor was back in the starting lineup against Washington, Robert Convington scored 25, and Dario Saric registered 20 to guide the Sixers to a home win to improve their overall record to 22-35.
5. The first meeting between the two teams on January 12 ended in thrilling fashion. Philadelphia battled back from 10 points down with 2:29 left in the game. T.J. McConnell nailed a buzzer-beating jumper to upend New York 98-97. Embiid was the catalyst in the comeback as he scored 21 points and 14 rebounds while the Sixers erased a 17-point deficit. Anthony and Derrick Rose combined for 53 points in the defeat.
by Jonah Ballow