Band’s back together as 76ers defeat Knicks
With their lineup at full strength for the time since Dec. 4, the Philadelphia 76ers looked like themselves again.
Or, at least, the team that reeled off a 10-3 stretch in late-October/November.
It took J.J. Redick a moment to realize after the game that the starting lineup was reunited for the first time in three weeks.
It took him much less time to make an impact against the New York Knicks on Monday afternoon in a Christmas Day matchup at Madison Square Garden.
Joel Embiid had 25 points and 16 rebounds in his return from a three-game absence, and Redick added 24 points with four 3-pointers in his first game back after missing two as the 76ers defeated the New York Knicks 105-98 to snap a season-high five-game losing streak.
“I love our guys, they fight — but you bring in Jo (Embiid) and J.J., and the fight goes to a higher level and gives us more of a chance,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. “Fans see it, and our team sees it when you live it in real time. It stands out dramatically.”
Enes Kanter stood out in a losing effort. He had 31 points — including 14 in the third quarter — and 22 rebounds, and Kristaps Porzingis added 22 points for the Knicks, who’ve lost three of four after winning four straight.
“People are texting me congratulations, but I probably won’t text most of them back,” Kanter said. “Who cares if I get 50 points or 50 rebounds? The whole New York state wants to see us in the playoffs. If my numbers aren’t going to put us in the playoffs, it doesn’t mean anything.”
Ben Simmons, who struggled offensively and finished with eight points, had a crucial steal and breakaway dunk with 1 minute, 6 seconds left, jumping in front of a Porzingis pass and taking it the other way to give the 76ers an eight-point cushion. He then forced a turnover on the Knicks’ next possession, and Philadelphia was able to juice the clock late.
After a close game for the first three quarters — neither team led by more than seven points — the 76ers broke loose with a big run midway through the fourth quarter.
With the score tied at 89 and 5:07 remaining, Porzingis was called for a defensive three-second violation, giving the 76ers a technical free throw which Redick converted. Philadelphia then went on an 11-4 run to take control.
Though Embiid and Redick led the way offensively, reserve guard T.J. McConnell may have been the most important player for the 76ers. McConnell had 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals off the bench as he outdueled New York’s Doug McDermott, who had five points and a negative-17 plus/minus ratio.
“I think he was the MVP of the game,” Brown said. “His spirit, apart from the other stuff, was awesome.”
After a red-hot start, Porzingis has cooled off of late, particularly after returning from a two-game absence because of knee soreness. Porzingis has shot 18 for 58 in his last three games, two of which were losses.
“Teams are trying to make it difficult on me, trying to force me to take shots I don’t want,” Porzingis said. “As the game slows down more for me, I will be able to see the right pass or the right shot. I am still learning, and I am still developing. I am learning from my mistakes.”
NOTES: New York fell to 22-30 after playing its league-high 52nd Christmas Day game, including 21-23 at home. ... The Knicks entered the game with a seven-game home winning streak over Philadelphia despite trailing the all-time series 201-244. ... The 76ers stay on the road with a Thursday matchup at Portland. ... New York entered the game averaging 22.7 assists per game (12th in the NBA), which would be their highest season average since 1994-95. ... New York heads on the road for a three-game trip, starting with Chicago on Wednesday.