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Game Preview: Knicks at 76ers- 03/02/22

After losing to the Sixers on Sunday, the Knicks face Philly again for their final meeting of the season.

Philadelphia 76ers v New York Knicks Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Surprising nobody, the New York Knicks (25-36) lost to the Philadelphia 76ers (37-23) 125-109 on Sunday. Our heroes had a slim lead early in the fourth, but the better team hit the gas and won the final frame 34-20. Joel Embiid and James Harden dominated for the Liberty Bells, and once again, RJ Barrett, a.k.a. Phoenix Rising, led the Knickerbockers with 24 points.

Philly fatigue is understandable as the Knicks travel to the city of Brotherly Love for another round. Fortunately, this will conclude a four-game season series that the Knicks lead 2-1.

Pack up your “Play Deuce” signs, we’re going to Pennsylvania. Tip-off’s at 7:30 p.m.

PROJECTED STARTERS

Did Sunday’s contest seem long? That’s because 50 fouls were whistled and 79 free throws attempted. The Knicks commit about 20 personal fouls per game, so their 24 violations were above average. The Sixers foul 19 times per game. Their 26 was even greater than usual. Make of it what you will.

This rematch will be another chippy affair. Feel free to nap through the third quarter. Why not? The Knicks probably will.

Speaking of fouls, Mitchell Robinson had a 1:1 foul-to-point ratio on Sunday, totaling six on both counts. Ouch. Joel Embiid outplayed the big cajun and attempted (not kidding) 27 free throws. He finished with 37 points, nine boards, and four blocks. The phonetic pronunciation is Ehmmm-veee-peee.

Is anyone else excited about Jericho Sims? I hope he plays a minimum of 20 minutes tonight, and every night for the rest of the 2022 campaign.

Newest Sixer James Harden posted a triple-double with 29 points, 10 rebounds, 16 assists, and five steals in 39 minutes. Ol’ Facerug shot 10-of-10 from the line, 8-of-14 from the field (57%), and 3-of-7 (43%) from Threeville. Remember when he scored four points in his last game for Brooklyn? Ha ha.

To his credit, the Knicks’ shooting guard Evan Fournier contributed positively on offense: 24 points on 9-of-16 from the field, 6-of-11 from deep. Love to see it. Just wish that he and his teammates put forth consistent effort on defense. Their rotations stunk on Sunday.

Tobias Harris had a low-key game (12/5/2). His counterpart, Julius Randle finished 16/10/7 on 4-of-13 shooting and played 38 minutes. Julius touched the charity stripe for 12 attempts (good) but coughed up three turnovers (less good), and his errant passes are often backbreakers. Maybe playing Julius fewer minutes might make him less exhausted in crunch time and result in fewer mental mistakes? Someone slip that note under Thibs’ door for me, please.

Each Sixers starter had a positive double-digit +/-. Matisse Thybulle had the lowest with +13. Conversely, every Knicks starter had a negative double-digit +/-, except Fournier with -7. RJ Barrett had the worst number at -20, but shhh about that.

Effervescent point guard Tyrese Maxey added 21 points and seven rebounds for Philly. He saw far too much of Alec Burks, who played so many minutes on Sunday that he finished the game one year older.

To be fair, Immanuel Quickley logged 26 admirable minutes. But Deuce McBride sat again. Thibs is incorrigible. The reasons to play the rookie are obvious:

  1. The season is lost. Rookie mistakes will not affect New York’s playoff hopes.
  2. Playing Deuce would let Thibs rest Alec Burks, who is threadbare after a long, heavy workload.
  3. We would see how McBride performs against pro-level competition and if he has the goods to be a rotational point guard.
  4. The front office would have more tape on a player whom they might want to package in a trade.

Making his own case for himself, Deuce had another excellent game last night for Westchester:

Anyway, here’s the latest dispatch from the high seas:

Thibodeau Island is now devoid of life, save for the rasping seabirds that scrawl across the sky and a few last, isolation-mad castaways who peep around coconut trees, their clothes tattered to rags. We have attempted rescue, but alas, they prefer to remain with their Wilson basketball. As we pull up anchor and raise our sails to depart, we wave goodbye to those faithful, lost souls doomed to starvation, and we shed a tear for what might have been. Adieu, Thibodeau! Adieu! May your termination be swift!

PREDICTION

ESPN.com gives the Sixers an 80% chance. The Knicks are on their longest losing streak of the season (five) and 5-15 in their last 20. My heart hopes for the squad to dig deep and find the temerity to defend their honor. My head says, nah, 80% feels right. Prediction: Knicks by -5.

Wells Fargo Center. Wednesday. 7:30 p.m. Squeeze the cheese outta them, Knicks!