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76ers 119, Knicks 108: “Awful fourth quarter”

Stupid Sixers.

NBA: New York Knicks at Philadelphia 76ers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Though not as fanatical as some, I am superstitious. On game day, I always wear Knicks socks and one of my NY hats, and sometimes a jersey or my John Starks shirt, usually while sipping coffee from my Knicks Yeti. Despite wearing all my good vibes gear tonight, I was worried. New York overcame a 21-point deficit to beat Philly at home last Sunday, but to defeat them twice in one week was unlikely. The Sixers sit third in the Eastern Conference for good reason.

I was right to worry. Friday night, the New York Knicks (30-27) gave a valiant effort at the Wells Fargo Center but fell to the Philadelphia 76ers (35-19), 119-108.

The vibes were glorious from the jump. In the first quarter, the Knicks shot 60% from the floor and played solid defense, including two blocks. Our heroes jumped out to an early lead with Jalen Brunson scoring their first seven points.

By the close of the frame, Jalen led the team with 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting. His 20 points were a Knicks season high for the first quarter. He and Julius Randle would combine for 27 of New York’s 36 Q1 points.

The Knicks ran up a 13-point lead, but Philly doesn’t stay down easy. Joel Embiid and James Harden kept their team close, together posting 20 of Philly’s 28 first-quarter points.

New York’s reserves + RJ Barrett came on to start the second frame. It’s safe to assume that Josh Hart will be joining the bench unit, taking RJ’s minutes here. That’s great. I can’t wait to get a closer look at the defensive prowess everyone’s talking about. As for RJ, he turned the ball over thrice in the first half but chipped in 11 points to keep the Knicks ahead. Some good, some bad: the 2022-23 RJ experience.

The bench bunch earned their pay, and Thibs left them in for half the quarter. The lead was ten when Thibs subbed in the starters + Immanuel Quickley (for RJ). IQ remains a crucial contributor and chipped in nine over the first two frames. He finished the game with 13 points in 29 minutes.

The Sixers showed zone defense throughout the first half, but for once the Knicks were not mystified and mesmerized. Their offense flowed as smoothly as it has all season. By halftime, New York was up 65-59. They had shot 60% from the floor, and 30% (5-of-17) from deep, and held Philly to 48% and 25% (5-of-20). They had won the battle for rebounds (23-19) and points in the paint (34-30). Philly never had a lead. My magic socks were working.

Post intermission, the Knicks kept rolling and answered the call whenever the Sixers chipped into the lead. New York led by ten with about seven minutes left in the third when Doc Rivers called a timeout to regroup his squad. Whatever they discussed, it helped. Philly managed to close the gap to five, causing Thibs to call his timeout with five and a half minutes left.

The Knicks’ defense started to falter as the tandem of Harden and Embiid wore them down. Philly reeled off a 13-0 run and seized a one-point lead with three minutes on the scoreboard. Thibs swapped Quickley and Isaiah Hartenstein for Barrett and Jericho Sims, and the Knicks reclaimed a narrow lead. Thanks to two free throws missed by Embiid, New York was ahead 93-92 after 36 minutes of NBA action.

To start the fourth, Thibs opted for Deuce McBride, IQ, RJ, Obi Toppin, and Hartenstein. Just as the Knicks cooled off, the Sixers got hot—especially Tyrese Maxey, who finished with 27 points and shot 5-for-8 from deep. Philly went ahead, and my stomach sank to see the score: 100-95. Conventional wisdom says that the first team to reach 100 usually wins. And so they would tonight.

Coming out of a timeout, Quickley drained a three and gave a glimmer of hope. But Maxey, Harden, the Georges “The Bus” Niang all scored, and dark clouds crept in. The Knicks had opportunities but played sloppily, and that zone defense started vexing them again. New York needed a hero to step up in clutch time with the game slipping away. None did.


  • The Knicks finished the night shooting 43-of-81 (53%) from the field and 11-of-32 (34%) from deep. Philly shot 44-of-85 (52%) FG and 36% (14-of-39) from range. Doesn’t get much closer than that.
  • The Knicks are tied with the Rockets for the most offensive rebounds per game (13.1). Tonight they collected four O-Boards and were out-rebounded 40-35. Wherefore art thou, Mitchell Robinson? (To his credit, three blocks for Hartenstein tonight.)
  • Your obligatory Obi stats: two points, two assists, one rebound, 1-of-4 from the floor, 0-of-3 from deep. 11 minutes. I understand that New York’s asking price for an Obi trade was “significant.” If he averages only 10-12 minutes for the rest of the season, what do they expect to get for him next summer? Hope to see some “Free Obi” stickers soon.
  • Per quarter, the Knicks have averaged 28.6 in the first, 29.2 in the second, 28.2 in the third, and 26.6 in the fourth. Tonight they managed only 15 points in the final frame.
  • Carmelo Anthony holds the Knicks’ record for points in any quarter with 25. Keep tugging on Superman’s cape, Jalen Brunson.
  • Embiid scored 35 points and 11 boards on 14-of-18 shooting from the floor. Harden logged 20 points and 12 assists. Mannn, Josh Hart and his mythical defensive skills can’t come fast enough.

Quoth @back: “Awful fourth quarter.” Indeed. Now I have to figure out which of my Knicks paraphernalia jinxed us before tomorrow’s home game against the Jazz. Probably the socks. Safe travels, Knickerbockers.