Two top-10 defenses -- the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks -- met in Philadelphia on Wednesday night, and they played a game befitting their rankings. Each defense threw a wrench in the opposing offense, leading to a slow, sloppy game that stayed relatively close throughout and saw both clubs shoot less than 40 percent from the field. In the end, neither team really executed, but New York got a big lift from Jeremy Lin to sustain its lead and escaped Philly with a 82-79 win, the Knicks' fifth straight under new head coach Mike Woodson.
Both teams had poor offensive first quarters, but the Sixers were on a whole other level, like, in a bad way. They missed their first 14 shots from the field, scoring only on free throws until Elton Brand finally connected almost eight minutes into the game. Luckily for them, New York's offense wasn't having much more success, and the Knicks held only an eight point lead at the end of the first.
Things stayed pretty much that way for the rest of the game. Philadelphia strung together a few outside shots (they were 8-for-17 from downtown on the night) and cut into the lead, then Amar'e Stoudemire (who finished with a game-high 21 points) would push the Knicks back ahead with his inside scoring. Lou Williams's individual run cut New York's lead to just one heading into the fourth quarter, at which point Lin took over.
Lin had been ice cold from the field all night, but came alive in the fourth when the Knicks needed him most. He sank three crucial shots in the period, then hit all of the necessary free throws to seal the victory for New York. For the Knicks, Lin's eruption was timely and typical, but the folks at Liberty Ballers saw it as yet another late-game breakdown by the Sixers:
All game long Jrue was stifling the one they call Linsanity. His length and ball hawking skills allowed him to keep Lin a non-factor for the first three quarters. When the new lineup came out, Jrue was put on JR Smith while a combination of Jodie and Lou was put on Lin. If you want to know how this faired for the Sixers, just go ahead and take a look at Lin's 4th quarter numbers why don't ya?
(Lin had 16 points in the fourth). Really, both teams collapsed down the stretch (or they just defended the hell out of one another), but New York had built enough of an advantage and got pure enough free throw shooting from Lin to come out on top.
It was an important game in the standings, as New York (23-24) gained a full game on Philadelphia (26-21) in the Atlantic Divison to pull within just three games of the sliding Sixers.