The 76ers delivered the blueprint. Now it’s up to the Knicks to adjust — if they can.
Sixers guard T.J. McConnell ruined Christmas at the Garden with his pressure defense, as Jarrett Jack and Frank Ntilikina struggled running the offense while being hounded by the reserve guard. Expect future opponents to do the same.
“Even going into the second half of the season, teams are going to go harder defensively, so we have to expect it, and be ready for it,” said Ntilikina, the rookie from France.
Coach Jeff Hornacek wants to see his guards attack before the opposition pressures them. Jack and Ntilikina combined for just four points on 2-of-13 shooting and four turnovers in Monday’s loss. The previous game, Jack struggled down the stretch in a narrow loss to the Pistons.
“We always tell our point guards, if someone is pressuring you, just drive right around them. Don’t wait for them to get into your body and try to make a move,” Hornacek said. “You see when he comes up to get you. That’s that change of pace, that change of speeds, when you go one way then slow down, then speed up. And that’s something that Frank will learn.”
Hornacek isn’t planning to go with one over the other late in games. He said he will continue to mix and match, as he has done all season, depending on who is playing better. Jack got the majority of the fourth-quarter minutes against the Pistons, while they split time against the 76ers down the stretch. Hornacek has gone more with Jack on the road late because of his experience. He’s also used Ron Baker as an extra guard to help with ball-handling, but Baker really struggles to score.
The second-year coach wants to see his team play faster overall. That was the focus during Tuesday’s practice, picking up the tempo. But that all starts with the play at point guard, a major question mark entering the season. While Jack and Ntilikina have surpassed expectations up to this point, they are starting to show cracks just as the schedule gets more difficult.
“We’re going to learn from [the loss to the 76ers], and do [better],” Ntilikina said. “Attack, be aggressive, before they make you uncomfortable.”