New York Knicks (20-15) had won two straight coming into tonight’s game at the Wells Fargo Center, but the Philadelphia 76ers (23-11) are a formidable foe, ranking in the top five for both offense and defense. Could the new-look Knicks deliver against top competition?
You betcha. Despite an early setback, the Knicks went on a 16-2 run, fueled by Miles McBride’s four three-pointers. Their momentum continued to the tune of 75 first-half points. Jalen Brunson’s outstanding performance, coupled with Josh Hart’s all-around contributions, played a pivotal role in their success against Joel Embiid and the Phillies. Post-intermission, New York endured a temporary scoring drought thanks to sturdy defense, and as Quentin Grimes and Hartenstein pressed down hard on the gas, the lead reached 38-points. FInal score, 128-92. Went like this.
Reigning MVP Joel Embiid limped early in this one. It didn’t stop him from scoring all six of Philly’s first points. Julius Randle had been a killer of late but missed three consecutive shots early. Luckily, Donte DiVincenzo came to the rescue, recording eight of the Knicks’ first 10 points.
The Big Ragu is 2/2 from deep pic.twitter.com/qPaoDHBvzr— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 6, 2024
Philly wasn’t allowing many uncontested shots, and they coasted out to a ten-point lead in the latter half of the first quarter. The Knicks went on a 16-2 run, which included four three-pointers from Miles McBride, to overcome their deficit. The headed into the second quarter up 34-30.
The bench squad had been mostly inefficient in Wednesday’s win over the Bulls; tonight, they scored 16 of the team’s first quarter points. McBride, perfect from long range, tied his career-high with those four zingers. Mira!
Deuce McBride sale de la banca y anota 4 triples en el 1C— NBA MÉXICO (@NBAMEX) January 6, 2024
Knicks terminan el cuarto con una racha de 18-4 pic.twitter.com/9M8tDItd5H
The Knicks went ahead by seven to open the second, thanks to a longball from new man OG Anunoby to beat an expiring shot clock. While Embiid sat, the Sixers still found purchase in the paint, one of the only quibbles about the first half. Fortunately, the Knicks threw flames from downtown, hitting 13 of 21 in the half. Even Precious Achiuwa hit a triple! The new Knick also poked the ball away on defense and blocked a shot—all encouraging stuff.
Coming out of a timeout, the camera caught Jalen Brunson patiently explaining something to an attentive Precious. That’s my quarterback. Jalen scored 12 straight points for the Knicks, including his fourth longball. Meanwhile, Julius couldn’t get his shot to fall, so he started pressuring the paint and getting to the foul line (where he shot 4-of-4).
The Knicks rode a 48-21 run from the tail end of the first quarter through the second and goosed their advantage to 20 when DiVincenzo hit his third of three attempts from downtown.
Previously, New York’s season-high was 72 first-half points. They topped that number tonight, shredding the NBA’s second-best defense and carrying a 75-55 lead into the intermission.
Tyrese Maxey sits fifth in the All-Star voting and led the Pennsylvanians with 20 points through the first two quarters. For the New Yorkers, Jalen Brunson had scored 21 points, but note the performance of Josh Hart: the Wildcat was a first-half menace, logging eight boards, six points, five assists, and rating +24 in 14 minutes.
New York had won the fast break points (23-10), second-chance points (18-4), boards (27-23), and assists (15-13). What’s more, they had shot 52% from the field to Philly’s 43%, and 62% from deep to the Sixers’ 33%. Here’s your halftime shot chart:
Out of the break, a Brunson bucket brought the lead to 22. The teams traded baskets and Embiid got annoyed. He cut the lead to 16 and Thibs called a timeout to steady the ship.
Randle missed nine of his first 10 shots tonight, including three whiffs from downtown. The good news is that the other starters combined for 72 points tonight. Finally, the Knicks appear to have an offense that needn’t depend on their two lead players to pour on most of the points. E.g., DDV has averaged 14.6 points over the last ten games and scored a total of 14 tonight; Isaiah Hartenstein added 17.
The contest got muddy as the Knicks went over five minutes without a field goal. Embiid and the Phillies chipped the differential to 12 points. The game would have really got out of hand if not for the constant motor of Josh Hart. He and Anunoby were constantly engaged and fast-twitch and did a ton that won’t appear on tonight’s statsheet. Toward the end of the quarter, tonight’s rabbit’s foot Deuce McBride checked in to log an assist and three more points. New York had made only five of 18 baskets in the quarter, and were outscored 21-18, but nonetheless were ahead 93-76 at the quarter’s close.
The Sixers came within 13 points, but Quentin Grimes burst off the bench for 18 fourth-quarter points to help demolish the hosts.
The Knicks went on a 19-1 and soon reached their biggest lead of not the game, but the season, 39 points. As the game progressed, Hartenstein had outplayed the gimpy Embiid, who still managed to score 30 points. Brunson checked out with about four and half minutes left, newcomer Malachi Flynn checked in late, and even Thibs new this game was in the bag. The Knicks had marched into Philly and decisively disassembled one of the league’s best. My face hurts from smiling.
Another back-to-back, folks. Our heroes travel to Washington for a whack at the Wizards. Thanks for the glorious win and safe travels, Knickerbockers.
Your Knicks box score: