It Wasn’t Pretty, but Sixers Outlast Knicks in OT
In a game that won’t be highly viewed in the NBA archives, the Sixers outlasted the Knicks in a 101-100 overtime win at Madison Square Garden Sunday.
The Sixers kicked off their season-long six-game road trip with a win and improve their record to 30-13, a full game ahead of the Nets for the top spot in the East. They did so without Joel Embiid (left knee bone bruise) and Seth Curry (left ankle sprain).
After a dominant first quarter which saw them take a 23-15 lead, the Sixers’ offense struggled to get anything going. Tobias Harris, who had a monster game against New York just last week, received a lot of attention. Sensing the Sixers couldn’t get much offense from anywhere else, Harris got the Joel Embiid treatment, seeing constant double teams.
Harris went just 2 of 10 in the first half while fellow starters Danny Green and Tony Bradley were held scoreless. Ben Simmons looked good early in his return to the lineup with a game-high 10 points. Coming off a 28-point performance against the Kings Saturday night, Shake Milton also had 10.
Thanks to a stingy Knicks defense – and poor offensive execution – the Sixers were clinging to a 43-42 lead at the half. Neither team shot above 40 percent.
The third quarter may have been the ugliest period of the game as the two teams went into the fourth tied at 64. Led by Milton (21 points), the bench unit had another strong run and recaptured the lead for the Sixers in the fourth.
The Sixers’ starters – with the Dwight Howard in for Bradley – struggled to execute their offense down the stretch. Harris has been a go-to player for the Sixers in the clutch. New York knew the ball would be in his hands and the Knicks made life miserable for him.
After a huge floater by Green to put the Sixers up three with 19.1 seconds left, the Sixers came up with a big stop on All-Star Julius Randle. New York was forced to foul with 13.2 seconds left. Nerlens Noel fouled Harris, an 89.6 percent free-throw shooter. Harris missed both, saying postgame that he couldn’t feel his right hand because of the smack from Noel.
That left the door open for Randle to hit a corner three that bounced around the rim and likely gave Sixers fans unhappy visions of Kawhi Leonard. With the game tied with 5.1 seconds left, the Sixers still had a chance to win in regulation. Instead, a poor inbounds pass from Simmons led to a Randle steal and gave the Knicks a last look that was missed.
Perhaps feeling the sting of allowing New York to force overtime, the Sixers looked flat to start the extra period. The play from the end of the fourth had carried over as the Knicks were executing and the Sixers were not. It was the veteran Green that helped the Sixers get out of their offensive funk with a pair of big threes.
New York then ripped off seven unanswered points to take a 100-96 lead with 1:10 left. In the midst of a brutal night, Harris was able to knock down a corner three to make it 100-99. After a stop, the Sixers got a few good looks at the rim, but ultimately Harris was fouled by Randle going for an offensive rebound off a Milton miss.
With the Knicks in the penalty, it gave Harris a chance to be the hero with 5.3 seconds left. Harris calmly hit both, giving the Sixers a one-point lead. Randle was able to get a decent midrange look with time winding down but it rimmed out.
Harris finished 5 of 18, Simmons committed seven turnovers, but the Sixers found a way. Defense was a big part of it. Led by Green (five steals, three blocks), the Sixers held the Knicks to just 43.2 percent from the field. Despite the clutch three in regulation, Randle finished just 7 of 23.
The Sixers begin a four-game West Coast swing Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry has missed the Warriors’ last two games with a tailbone injury. His brother, Seth, will have his ankle sprain re-evaluated Monday after missing both games this weekend.
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