The New York Knicks (30-27) lost a game for the first time since last Saturday falling 119-108 to the Philadelphia 76ers (35-19) on the road at Wells Fargo Center.
Perhaps Josh Hart could have helped his new team in stopping Philly from pulling off the 13-point comeback, but all the former Trail Blazer could do was sit comfortably on the sidelines as he arrived late from New York and couldn’t dress for this matchup.
Asked about Hart’s future in the rotation, Tom Thibodeau said that he “wants to see where we are” before making a decision, adding: “Whether he comes off the bench (or starts games) doesn’t matter to me.”
“He can play with different groups and his physicality is natural,” Thibs finished.
Hart wouldn’t have needed to help that much on the scoring front with Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle getting 30 points each to go along with RJ Barrett’s 19 and Immanuel Quickley’s 19 off the pine.
That said, Brunson and Randle did most of that damage before a dreadful fourth quarter in which New York could only score fifteen points with JB and JR hoisting a paltry four field-goal attempts for a total of four points bagged between them.
“We played well for three quarters, but then we took the foot off the gas,” Brunson said after the game. “You have to play four quarters and they did a good job in the fourth quarter of coming out with energy.”
The Sixers outscored the Knicks 27-15 in the last stanza. The old zone-defense trick worked for Philly, as it did in past meetings.
“The zone slowed us down a bit,” Randle conceded. “The fourth quarter we could’ve done better,” added Thibodeau.
There wasn’t much distance between both teams in most statistical categories. New York scored 11 treys to Philly’s 14. The Knicks hit 44 field goals to the Sixers’ 44. But the home team grabbed 40 boards to the visitors’ 35 with Brunson getting seven of them, the second-most among New York Knickerbockers.
Jericho Sims and Isaiah Hartenstein combined for just nine rebounds throughout the game. Joel Embiid alone grabbed 11 while dumping 35 pops on the Knicks. P.J. Tucker and Tobias Harris combined for 10 boards.
“I thought rebounding was pretty good through three quarters and then in the fourth, when we needed to be at our best, we could’ve done better,” Thibodeau said.
The implosion of the Brooklyn Nets should help New York snatch a top-six seed without much trouble. One franchise they will definitely not be jumping over in the standings, though, is Philadelphia.
“We should be walking out of here with a win, but give them credit,” Brunson acknowledged. “They’re seeded where they are for a reason and they’re great players over there, great coaches. We’ve just got to be better.”
Hart is expected to make his official debut donning Knicks threads on Saturday at MSG with the Knicks hosting the Utah Jazz (28-29) on the second game of this back-to-back series of games entering the last weekend before the All-Star break.
Tip-off tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST before Brooklyn comes to MSG on Monday. Enjoy these next two games at home because your Knickerbockers won’t be playing hoops in NYC until Feb. 25 when they’ll host the New Orleans Pelicans at MSG.