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76ers 118, Knicks 110: ‘It’s time for the (tanking) student to become the master’

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Quite a loss.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks’ 118-110 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers—a magnificent choke job in which they were outscored by 20 points over the last 18 minutes—was the kind of defeat that leads to all sorts of questions. Perhaps the most important question is whether or not Jeff Hornacek is actively trying to lose.

The ‘Bockers controlled the game from the middle of the second quarter on, but the Sixers were indeed applying pressure in the fourth. But the Knicks appeared to be holding firm with their second unit, particularly Trey Burke, Kyle O’Quinn and Damyean Dotson. Frank Ntilikina was in as well, and though he wasn’t having a good game offensively, he has long since proven himself to be one of the guys you want in the game when you’re holding a lead.

Well screw all that! Hornacek decided to go back with the starters—Emmanuel Mudiay, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, Michael Beasley and Enes Kanter—and it worked out about as well as it has every single time they’ve played together this season. Philly went on a 20-6 run that was remarkable only for its inevitability. Every Knicks fan knew what was coming, but apparently the coach was flabbergasted.

Or was he? Thursday’s late-game tank was so clinically efficient that I’m left wondering. Hornacek had ample opportunity to call a timeout and get O’Quinn or Burke back in the game when Kanter was getting cooked by Joel Embiid and Mudiay was...just plain sucking. But he did not. Was this the plan all along? Is Jeff Hornacek secretly a genius?

Notes:

— Thirteen total minutes for Frank. Combine that with the 16 he played on Tuesday (another loss!) and he’s played 29 minutes in that past two games. That’s pretty much what I’d like him to average in one game...so, the coach and I are pretty far apart in our ideal minutes allocations.

It’s not like Frank did much to establish himself on Thursday, however. He finished with zero points on 0-1 shooting and three assists. But, hey, three assists in 13 minutes sure as hell tops Mudiay’s four assists in 27 minutes (TWENTY-SEVEN!). The Knicks were also plus-2 in Frank’s minutes, whereas they were minus-13 during Mudiay’s time.

— Speaking of point guard’s with a better on/off than Mudiay, Trey Burke was a sterling plus-12 in a game they lost by eight. He was better in the first half, scoring 11 of his 16 points before the break, but he was clearly still the better option.

— Mudiay scored 10 of his 12 points in the first quarter. Dude is incapable of playing two good halves back-to-back.

— Michael Beasley’s stat line was insane: 24 points on 11-16 shooting, 13 rebounds, 7 assists. I doubt NBA Twitter could have survived a Beasley triple-double; it would have burned to the ground.

Sadly, Beasley reverted back to bad Beasley in the fourth, throwing wild passes and straight-up running into Sixers defenders for charges. Seems like we could have predicted it, right?

— Kyle O’Quinn had 15 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals, and a wonderful teammate moment, consoling a pouting Tim Hardaway during a timeout. (Keep in mind, the Knicks were still leading at this time; Tim was frustrated over his sucky 3-13 shooting performance).

O’Quinn is the heart of this team, man. So what did Hornacek do after witnessing this moment? He removed O’Quinn and kept playing Hardaway. Ugh.

As P&T’er foiegrastyle noted, the Knicks showed the former masters of tanking what true tanking is all about. Now comes the hard part: games against the crappy Hornets and their tanking rivals, the Bulls.