Should the New York Knicks consider their glasses half empty or half full? Tom Thibodeau’s team has come up short against the two top teams in the Eastern Conference on back to back nights. However, there should be some solace in the fact that the Knicks were able to stand toe to toe until the final seconds against two teams that are clearly contenders for the NBA title.
New York had a chance to tie on their final posession for the second night in a row, but again could not hit the big shot when they needed to as they fell to Philadelphia 99-96 at the Wells Fargo Center. With the loss the Knicks slip back under the .500 mark for the season at 20-21 and drop to eighth in the conference playoff race.
Granted, the Knicks were taking on a 76ers team that was missing star player, MVP candidate Joel Embiid. And the team caught a break in the previous contest with Brooklyn playing without Kevin Durant. Still, there is no denying the grit and determination of the Knicks. Led by a defense that causes opponents fits, it is clear New York is heading in the right direction.
Meanwhile, it was the sixth consecutive win for Philadelphia (28-12) who sit on top of the conference standings.
“Taking a look at this game and the Brooklyn game, there’s a lot of good things to take from it,’’ Thibodeau said. “Obviously we fell short in the end. It shows us the work necessary to get over the hump. But the last two games you’re on the road against a Brooklyn and Philadelphia and it comes down to the last possession.’’
With Embiid out Philadelphia turned to Tobias Harris. Harris supplied the 76ers with the offense they needed down the stretch. The Long Island native felt shunned when he was not named an NBA All-Star. On this night Harris played with a chip on his shoulder. First of all, Harris poured in a game-high 30 points. Secondly, whenever his team needed a clutch bucket in the waning minutes, the Knicks could not stop him.
For three quarters it appeared the Knicks would bounce back with a win. New York led 21-20 after a quarter and 56-48 heading to the fourth. However, as Knicks fans have witnessed before, the team’s offense failed them over the final 12 minutes, scoring just 14 points. With point guards Derrick Rose and Elfrid Payton still out, Thibodeau seemed to be searching for a solution. Thibodeau used Frank Ntilikina, Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks all at the point in the frame, but none of the trio were able to trigger the Knicks attack.
“We’re shorthanded — that’s part of it,’’ Thibodeau said.
Event with the inept offensive performance in the fourth the New York had a chance. Down three after blowing a nine-point lead, Quickley got a wide-open look to tie it with 11 seconds remaining. Quickley’s shot missed. Julius Randle collected the rebound. Then, Reggie Bullock got another look from behind the arc. Bullock’s heel though stepped on the out of bounds line and his shot was waved off dashing the Knicks hopes.
Seth Curry looked more like his brother Steph as he torched the Knicks from downtown. Curry finished with 20 points for the 76ers. Ben Simmons added 16.
Randle and Burks paced the Knicks with 19 points apiece. Barrett finished with 17, while Quickley (13), Bullock (12) and Taj Gibson (10) also reached double figures.
“We played the top two teams in the East and it was a dogfight.”
Randle, the team’s leader was not as pleased with just playing the 76ers and Nets close.
“I don’t believe in moral victories,” Randle said. “It’s a win or a loss.’’
New York will attempt to get back in the win column Friday night against Orlando at Madison Square Garden before a rematch with Philadelphia on Sunday.
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)