Extra Pass: Tune in to Sixers-Knicks on Christmas

Published December 25, 2022, 4:00 PMPolo Bustamante

The Sixers and Knicks open up the NBA Christmas Day festivities when they tip-off at 1:00 AM, live on NBA League Pass.

What’s up with the Philadelphia 76ers?

The Sixers are the hottest team in the NBA right now. They’ve won seven straight games and have vaulted back into playoff contention with a 19-12 record. Currently they’re fifth in the East and are only a game away from a top four seed.

It’s no coincidence that Philly is going on this run at the same time Joel Embiid is destroying teams in his way. Embiid has scored 30 or more points seven times in the nine games he’s played this month. It’s not just Embiid that’s been on a tear. James Harden has also been playing exquisite basketball as of late. In December, Harden is averaging 12 assists per game and has dished out double-digit dimes in half of the eight games he’s played in this month.

When these two are clicking, the Sixers look like a championship team. The perfect example was during their last game against the LA Clippers. Embiid and Harden outplayed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to keep Philadelphia’s win streak alive.

Embiid broke out of his two-game slump, dropping 44 points on 60 percent shooting. Harden had a monster triple-double with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and a whopping 21 assists. Philadelphia overcame an 18-point deficit and pulled out the win in the end with those two leading the way.

Harden, Embiid, and the rest of the SIxers are looking to keep their holiday run going, gunning for their eighth straight dub.

What’s up with the New York Knicks?

Here’s an interesting stat. Before their last loss against the Chicago Bulls, the New York Knicks had the best net rating in the past 10 games. They had the eighth best offense and second best defense, going 8-2 during that stretch. 

For the season they’re top 10 in both defensive and offensive rating and are currently in sixth place in the East, with an 18-15 record. Before the loss to Chicago, they were the hottest team in the league, racking up eight straight wins. 

It seems as if they found the magic formula this season, led by a trio of 20-point scorers in Julius Randle, Jalen Brunson, and RJ Barrett. With those three leading the way, the Knicks have taken down teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings, and Denver Nuggets. But, even if they’re currently on the rise, they’re still a team prone to bone-headed moments.

Take their last loss against the Bulls as an example. They could have iced the game in the final minutes but missed four free throws. They also allowed Zach LaVine two easy drives in the paint to cut their lead down to just one point, allowing DeMar DeRozan to hit the game-winner.

Heading into a marquee match-up against the team ahead of them in the standings, the New York needs to play more like the best team in the league, rather than the bonehead Knicks of the past.

Storyline to watch out for

With Embiid back in wrecking ball mode after a couple of clunkers that ended his 30-point streak, the Knicks have a major problem on their hands. Do they have enough bodies to throw Embiids way?

Mitchell Robinson most-likely starts off against the Sixers’ MVP bet. But he’s too foul prone and there’s no telling if he can stay on the floor. Isaiah Hartenstein is sturdy enough to hold his own in the post. But is he fast enough to keep up when Embiid puts the ball on the floor? Jericho Sims is too young while Julius Randle is too small.

What kind of defensive scheme will Tom Thibodeau pull out against the league’s leading scorer? If they can slow down Embiid, then they have a good chance to end Philly’s streak.


Here’s the thing, even if the Knicks manage to somehow find a way to wrangle Embiid, they still have to deal with Harden – another Sixer on a tear right now. At the end of the day, the Knicks have to pick their poison: Harden or Embiid. Neither one is a good choice and that’s why the Sixers have the clearer path to a merry Christmas.