The Philadelphia 76ers, who've have an up-and-down few weeks, head to Madison Square Garden to face the slumping New York Knicks on Thursday night.
Coming off a 101-98 home loss to the Indiana Pacers -- a game in which Joel Embiid scored 29 but turned the ball over eight times and allowed Myles Turner to score 25 -- Philadelphia gets a chance to right the ship against a Knicks squad its already beaten twice this year.
"The fact is that we have not been able to get through the Miamis, the Washingtons, the Milwaukees and tonight the Indianas," 76ers coach Brett Brown told reporters. "With each one of those games, we learn a little bit about what we need to get better for the playoffs. I think there's tremendous learning power out of these games."
The first time the teams met this season on Christmas Day, Philadelphia won 105-98 behind 25 points and 16 boards from Embiid, 24 points from J.J. Redick and inspired bench play from T.J. McConnell, who had 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals.
The last time the two teams met Feb. 12, McConnell again delivered in a big way, registering a triple-double with 10 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds with six steals in a team-high 37 minutes.
New York, which has since turned its backcourt over to the youngsters, Emmanuel Mudiay and Frank Ntilikina, will need to counter the 76ers strong bench play.
"I'm not only playing for the team, my last name, but I'm playing for the young guys," Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. told reporters. "I want the young guys to see that even in tough situations, you still have to go out there and fight. You still have to go out there and compete, try to lead in any aspect that you can."
The Knicks, who've lost eight straight and 16 of 17 games, might be without the services of Hardaway. Their leading scorer on the active roster -- star center Kristaps Porzingis remains out until next season recovering from a torn ACL, Hardaway is battling a sprained right ankle after missing 20 games earlier this season with a stress reaction in his lower left leg.
Hardaway's absence would leave the already thin Knicks almost barren on the perimeter. New York would be down its top two 3-point shooters and would be forced to rely even more on center Enes Kanter, who has had a solid season with 14.1 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.
Against a mismatch-heavy 76ers roster, highlighted by the ultimate mismatch -- 6-foot-10 point guard Ben Simmons, who had a triple-double against the Pacers -- New York could be in for a long night.
That would be big for the 76ers, who are in a battle for playoff seeding.
"I try not to look at the standings just because I know I have to take every game day by day or however it comes," Simmons told reporters.
After traveling to New York, Philadelphia returns home for a three-game homestand starting with the Brooklyn Nets on Friday.
The Knicks next remain home for the final two contests of a five-game homestand, with Charlotte visiting the Garden on Saturday and Chicago on Monday.
Playoff hopeful 76ers visit slumping Knicks