EditorsNote: adds headline
McConnell’s jumper lifts Sixers past Knicks
PHILADELPHIA — The New York Knicks saw their point guard return on Wednesday night.
The Philadelphia 76ers, meanwhile, saw their point guard come up big in the clutch.
T.J. McConnell nailed a short jumper at the buzzer, lifting Philadelphia to a 98-97 victory over the Knicks, who saw Derrick Rose return after an unexcused one-game absence.
McConnell, a second-year man, connected from the left baseline, capping a rally that saw the Sixers erase a 10-point deficit in the final 2:29.
“In all my years of basketball, that was the first (game-winner),” said McConnell, a Western Pennsylvania native who played at Duquesne and Arizona. “If there was one in grade school I can’t remember, but I know there wasn’t one in high school. Not in college, either.”
After he drilled the shot he sprinted the length of the court and was mobbed by his teammates.
“I can’t even think of a word for (the feeling),” he said. “It feels really good. It feels even better to get a win, even though we played pretty bad tonight.”
Philadelphia, which won for the fourth time in five games, shot just 38.9 percent from the floor.
Joel Embiid had 21 points and a career-high 14 rebounds and Ersan Ilyasova contributed 16 points for the Sixers, who improved to 11-25, exceeding their victory total for all last season.
Carmelo Anthony scored 28 points and Rose had 25 to pace the Knicks, who lost for the ninth time in 10 games.
Backup forward Kyle O’Quinn finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Down 93-83 after a basket by Joakim Noah with 2:29 to play, the Sixers reeled off 11 of the next 13 points. Embiid had eight of those, including a 3-pointer he banked in from the top of the circle with 1:21 to play.
Rose’s layup with 34.5 seconds left gave New York a 97-94 lead, but Philadelphia’s Gerald Henderson hit two free throws with 27.8 seconds left.
Henderson also collected a long rebound of a missed 3-pointer by Kristaps Porzingis in the closing seconds and sped downcourt. He passed to Ilyasova, who fired the ball to McConnell.
“I saw the baseline,” he said. “It was pretty open.”
Anthony, however, cut him off, so McConnell executed a spin move.
“I thought (Anthony) was going to be in my face when I shot it, and I turned around and no one was there,” he said. “It was pretty much uncontested.”
He fired as Porzingis flew at him belatedly, and the ball dropped through as the buzzer sounded.
“There’s a toughness in our group I’m falling in love with,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.
That’s particularly true of McConnell, who finished with eight points and seven assists while making just his sixth start of the season, and his fifth consecutively after Sergio Rodriguez sprained an ankle.
McConnell was undrafted out of Arizona last season, and one of 17 point guards Brown has had in his four seasons as Philadelphia’s coach.
“You have someone who doesn’t go away,” Brown said. “He seized the moment, grabbed an opportunity and he ran hard with it.”
Rose returned after skipping Monday’s loss to New Orleans to deal with what he has called “a family issue” in his hometown of Chicago.
The absence was unexcused, and Rose not only failed to inform team officials that he would miss the game, he also did not respond to attempts to contact him. The Knicks as a result fined him an undisclosed amount.
“I felt good,” he said after Wednesday’s game. “I only missed one day, only one game. ... I was just trying to come back and play the way that I normally know how to play, and not think about anything.”
His goal was simple.
“Just be Derrick,” he said. “That was about it.”
Rose made all but one of his seven shots from the floor while scoring 12 first-quarter points, helping the Knicks establish a 32-27 lead.
As is often the case against the Sixers, an opponent thrived when Embiid went to the bench. He sat down with 5:34 left in the quarter and Philadelphia trailing 20-18, and New York immediately took advantage, scoring their last six baskets of the quarter within 10 feet of the rim.
O’Quinn, who finished the half with 10 points and 11 rebounds in just under 15 minutes, contributed three baskets.
The Knicks extended their lead to 49-32 with 5:08 left in the second quarter, but the Sixers ended the half on a 15-3 run to cut the gap to 52-47 at halftime.
Anthony and Rose both had 13 points in the half for the Knicks. Embiid generated 11 points and seven rebounds for the Sixers, who continued their charge in the third quarter.
A 3-pointer by Robert Covington with 8:34 put the Sixers ahead 55-54, their first lead since the first quarter. The game remained tight until Anthony exploded for 11 of his 15 third-quarter points in the final 3:28, putting New York up 75-71 heading into the fourth quarter.
Anthony’s 3-pointer with 16.3 seconds left in the quarter triggered a 12-0 Knicks run extending into the fourth quarter. Joakim Noah notched five of those points, including the layup with 8:17 left in the game that put New York up 84-71.
NOTES: Asked before the game why G Derrick Rose wasn’t suspended for his unexcused absence Monday, Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said the team determined that a fine was punishment enough. Hornacek also said that while he believes Rose should have notified team officials of the situation he was facing, the coach also understands what might have been going through Rose’s mind. “It happens,” Hornacek said. “He knows that he’ll handle it differently, if it ever happens again, but we have to move forward.” ... The NBA announced earlier in the day that Knicks C/F Kyle O’Quinn was fined $25,000 for his flagrant foul-2 on New Orleans F Anthony Davis in the third quarter of New York’s loss to the Pelicans on Monday.