The New York Knicks hope their superstar can duplicate a memorable opening-night performance as they continue a challenging early schedule.
The Philadelphia 76ers are leaning on an unlikely leading scorer while they wait on their own star to return.
The two will meet Sunday at Madison Square Garden in the opener of this home-and-home set.
With their city still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the Knicks (1-0) opened their season a day later than expected and routed Miami 104-84 on Friday. Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 30 points - 16 in the first quarter - and added 10 rebounds after thanking fans for coming to the arena despite the challenges posed by the storm.
It was the beginning of a difficult opening stretch for the Knicks, who play eight straight games against playoff teams from last season. Four of five are on the road starting Monday in Philadelphia.
"I think early on it's always best to play great teams, just to gauge, to see where you are as a team," coach Mike Woodson said. "Our schedule is what it is, we've got some tough opponents coming up, but we can't run from it. It is what it is."
With the Sixers (1-0) still waiting on the debut of the newly acquired Andrew Bynum - he's nursing a bone bruise in his right knee - they received a big performance from Spencer Hawes in an 84-75 win against Denver on Wednesday. Hawes scored 16 points off the bench while tallying 12 rebounds and five blocks, even earning "MVP" chants from the Philadelphia crowd.
If Hawes can be consistent, the Sixers may have no need to rush Bynum back.
"We want to be the kind of team they can embrace," Hawes said. "We have big expectations this year. We know we have to contribute whatever way we're asked."
Philadelphia will need the same 3-point defense it showed against Denver - the Nuggets were 4 of 18 from beyond the arc - as the Knicks hit 19 of 36 from long distance against the Heat. Anthony and Steve Novak combined for nine 3-pointers, while new additions Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton hit three apiece.
With 35-year-old Argentinian rookie Pablo Prigioni joining Kidd and Felton on New York's point guard depth chart, Woodson often played two of the three simultaneously. Kidd and Felton combined for 26 points and 12 assists with just four turnovers, though Prigioni had three turnovers in 16 minutes of a scoreless debut.
"I think it helps," Kidd said of playing two point guards at once. "When you look at Ray, Pablo, myself, veteran guys who have played the game and understand it, played with scorers and with guys who like to have the ball. And when you have pass-first type of point guards also helps."
Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday, meanwhile, had 14 points and 11 assists in the opener, then agreed to a four-year extension worth at least $41 million just before Wednesday's midnight deadline.
"I'm ecstatic to continue playing in Philadelphia," Holiday said. "I'm going to keep putting in the work and pushing myself every day in order to bring a championship to the city and our fans."
New York center Tyson Chandler is listed as probable after missing Saturday's practice with flu-like symptoms. Marcus Camby could still be out after not playing against the Heat with a strained calf that kept him out for most of training camp.
The Knicks won last season's series 2-1, splitting two games in New York and winning in Philadelphia.
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- Spencer Hawes
- Jason Kidd