The Sixers (36-28) finished their two-game series with the Knicks (37-27) on Tuesday. Philadelphia wanted to build on Sunday's win in Madison Square Garden. New York wanted to avenge the loss. The Sixers came out uncompetitive and got punched in the mouth early to no recovery, 106-79.

Before we get to the game, some notes.

Contextual Notes

The Sixers were without the services of Joel Embiid, who is recovering from a procedure on the meniscus in his left knee. Tyrese Maxey was cleared to return after missing four games with a concussion.

De'Anthony Melton remained out with stress in his lumbar spine bone. As did Robert Covington, who has a bone bruise in his left knee.

Terq Smith is on a two-way G League assignment with the Delaware Blue Coats and was not available.

Nick Nurse started Kyle Lowry, Maxey, Kelly Oubre Jr., Tobias Harris, and Mo Bamba.

The Knicks were without the services of Julius Randle, who has a dislocated right shoulder.

Mitchell Robinson is recovering from surgery on his left ankle and was not available.

OG Anunoby returned for the Knicks after missing more than a month recovering from surgery on his right elbow.

Tom Thibodeau started Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, Anunoby, Josh Hart, and Isaiah Hartenstein.


- Maxey saw blitzing and hedging on ball screens pretty much from the jump in this game, and the Sixers countered by getting him some looks off the catch. They recognized the difficulty and adapted promptly. Maxey became a screener in the second layer of actions, setting the back pick for the big in a Spain pick-and-roll and popping for a catch-and-shoot three.

It's rather frustrating that the Sixers don't run more multi-layered actions like Spain frequently. Especially now that Lowry is here, they have the ball-handling necessary to give Maxey significant off-ball reps. The fit is excellent, too, as Maxey is a far better catch-and-shoot threat than he is a pull-up shooter. Nurse clearly has the playbook for it.

- I don't know if it's more a compliment to Paul Reed's growth and work ethic or a damning indictment of the rest of the team sans Embiid, but the fan-favorite big man might be the second or third most reliable jump-shooter they have right now. Who saw that coming?


- You might've heard of the comedy Not Another Teen Movie, an early 2000s spoof that compiles every cliche you've ever seen in movies centered on high-schoolers. Well, let me introduce you to a spin-off called Not Another Sixers First Quarter. You thought the Sunday first quarter was nasty; well, this one was maybe as bad and the latest in a string of horrible first quarters.

As the Knicks began to put some pressure on Philadelphia with the loud home crowd enhancing the magnitude of every three-point make, a pair of Sixers were rather uncompetitive.

First was Harris, who over-ran or helped too far off shooters in both the halfcourt and transition settings. If he over-ran, he gave up on the play, conceding the open look from the perimeter. If it was off a swing pass in the halfcourt, Harris was too far over in help to get back in time.

The other guilty party was Bamba, who provided absolutely no resistance on New York's defensive glass. During the Sixers' frozen start, every possession was one and done. If it wasn't a make (and it often was not), the Sixers had to run back to defend in transition. The biggest guy in the lineup, who was often the closest to the basket of any Sixer on the floor, did little more than watch as stronger, more athletic, or more energetic Knicks devoured the ball off the rim.

To be clear, there's a significant difference between the expectations you have for Harris and those you have for Bamba. Bamba is cashing veteran minimum paychecks representative of what he is in this league - a largely immobile big who can block shots at the rim and stroke catch-and-shoot threes, but is neither strong nor fiery enough to really compete at the things that players his size usually do in the paint. He's hurting the team in his minutes on the court, but it's not totally detrimental to team-building or unexpected because you get what you pay for.

In that respect, I don't even totally blame Bamba. Daryl Morey and the front office haven't addressed what is clearly the biggest weakness on the roster while Embiid is out, and Nurse continues to play him. The idea that he's saving Paul Reed for better matchups as a reserve works until you see Bamba go up against Hartenstein two games in a row. The same principle applied to Reed would've sent Bamba to the depths of the bench, perhaps even in favor of a small ball option like Nico Batum.

Harris, on the other hand, is not doing the bare minimum. He simply wasn't competitive at even the most basic effort plays, and the mental errors are unacceptable for a player of his experience. The Sixers have never gotten what they paid for when they gave him that deal, but it's never been as bad as it's been during this stretch without Embiid. The brutal offense is one thing; the lack of hunger on effort plays and the clear deferral to Oubre in this game beg two questions - does Harris want to play? Is he checked out on this franchise?

The cold truth is this - Buddy Hield was relegated to the bench; Oubre, at times, has been shuffled out of the starting lineup; Reed, who has been arguably the third best player on the team at different times over the last month, was recently cast to the bench; has Harris been better than any of those guys over the last month?

The answer, almost indisputably, is no. So, why hasn't Harris been disciplined with fewer minutes or demotion to the bench? Your answer probably points at the size of his salary and the politics that come with it.

The Sixers (36-29) will visit the Milwaukee Bucks (42-23) on Thursday. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the game on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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Gallery Credit: Josh Hennig/Townsquare Media

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