Photo Credit: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

Knicks Tank keeps rolling and Mitchell Robinson continues to impress

Riding a franchise record 17-game losing streak, the New York Knicks were hoping for a victory against the revamped Philadelphia 76ers. With eight minutes to go in the third quarter, the 76ers built up a 26-point lead. As expected, the Knicks were unable to overcome such a huge deficit and fell 126-111. Despite falling behind by so many points, the young Knicks showed grit and fought their way back into the game. One of the main catalysts behind the failed comeback was Mitchell Robinson.

If Robinson keeps up his play as of late, the Knicks brass may consider erecting a statue of him in front of Madison Square Garden. At the moment, Robinson is one of the few positives of the best tank New York has to offer. Tonight, he was everywhere. He sent four shots back — one to Brooklyn, one to the Bronx, one to Queens, and even one to Staten Island. Two of his blocks came against one of the best big men in the game, Joel Embiid.

Robinson was also active on both the offensive and defensive boards. He finished with a career-high 13 rebounds, and he added 14 points to his magnificent performance. Since DeAndre Jordan arrived in the blockbuster trade with the Dallas Mavericks, he has had a profound effect on the rookie big man. Currently, it’s impossible to predict if the Knicks front office will make any trades after the season is over — notably for Anthony Davis — but if they do, they have to do everything within their power to keep Robinson in a Knicks uniform.

76ers break the game open in the second and midway through the third quarter

After a scintillating first quarter, the 76ers began to pull away in the second quarter. At the 9:07 mark, Kadeem Allen nailed a three to bring the Knicks within one, 44-43. Once the basketball fell through the hoop on Allen’s three, the 76ers snacked on the Knicks like barbecue chicken — as Shaquille O’Neal would say. Mike Scott made a three to cap off a 9-0 run by the 76ers to push their advantage to ten. The deficit remained nearly constant until the remaining 1:30 of the first half. Philadelphia went on another run (7-0) to go into halftime with a 16-point lead, 71-55.

Anyone familiar with the Knicks this season knows third quarter performances are an enigma. Sometimes, the team plays competitively. Other times, the team flops like James Harden trying to commit a foul in the lane. Against the 76ers, both Knicks teams made an appearance. To start the third, New York was collapsing harder than a building that has lost its bearings. Philadelphia put New York to the sword by going on a 17-7 run to push the lead to 26, 88-62. What shortly followed was David Fizdale instructing his men to use their secret weapon — operation zone.

Knicks begin to mount a comeback by playing zone defense

In the latter part of the third, the Knicks switched to a zone defense anchored by Robinson in the middle. At times, the 76ers looked lost against the zone, and that allowed the Knicks to cut into the lead. By the end of the quarter, the Knicks cut the 76ers lead to nine — 100-91. Allen nailed a floater, then Allonzo Trier made a three with 2.9 seconds left to give the Knicks momentum going into the fourth quarter.

Tobias Harris crushes Knicks hopes and dreams of a comeback win

Throughout the fourth, New York kept within striking distance. Twice, Gotham’s heritage franchise came within seven of the men from Philadelphia, and Long Island native Tobias Harris made sure that’s as close as the Knicks would get. With 2:52 left in the fourth, Harris nailed a three to give the 76ers a 10-point lead. From then on, the 76ers rode their momentum to victory.

New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers stats

New York’s bench combined to score 74 points. Trier led the Knicks with an efficient 19 points on 5-9 shooting. Damyean Dotson contributed 16 points off the bench. Allen had another productive game and finished with 13 points. Dennis Smith Jr. and Jordan didn’t have their best games, but they scored 13 points and 12 points respectively.

Kevin Knox struggled shooting the rock (4-10 shooting), but he had the highlight of the game when he stuffed a two-hand dunk on Ben Simmons in the second quarter. He finished with 9 points.

All Philadelphia starters finished with double-digit points. Embiid led the way with 26 points, and he also dominated the boards with 14 rebounds. Harris had a great homecoming and finished with 25 points. Despite being put on a poster, Simmons had a productive game. He ended with 18 points and 7 assists. J.J. Redick didn’t make it rain from deep (2-6 shooting from three), but he still contributed with 15 points. Jimmy Butler only took six shots, but he finished with 13 points, 8 rebounds, and he had a team-high plus-minus of +31.

Next stop on the road to Zion

In the updated Zion Williamson standings, New York still holds the top spot with an atrocious record of 10-47. The Knicks will have one more chance to break their franchise-record losing streak of 18 straight games before the All-Star break. The next stop on the road to Zion will be in Atlanta to take on the Atlanta Hawks Thursday night.

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