Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
The Knicks had a chance to tie the game late
Coming into Sunday’s matinee matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers, the New York Knicks have lost seven straight home games. Even though the “Knicks tank” is fully gassed up and ready to go, the Knicks were looking forward to finally breaking their home losing streak. Unfortunately for the Knicks, the 76ers were looking to bounce back after suffering a humiliating loss to the lowly Atlanta Hawks.
This game was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the 76ers thoroughly dominated the Knicks, and at one point, led by 24 points. In the second half, the Knicks closed the gap and had a chance to tie the game at the end of regulation. With 4.7 seconds remaining on the clock, Joel Embiid fouled Damyean Dotson on a 3-point attempt. The Knicks were down 108-103.
For the Knicks to pull off an improbable comeback, Dotson had to make the first two free throws and purposely miss the third free throw to give his teammates a chance to grab the rebound. Once the rebound is secured, whoever has the ball would rush behind the arc and throw up a prayer to tie the game. The good news is, everything went according to plan. The bad news is, the Knicks missed the shot to tie the game.
After Dotson made his first two free throws, he purposely missed his third free throw to the right. Emmanuel Mudiay rushed to the ball to grab the rebound, then proceeded to dribble until he was behind the arc. Mudiay was able to find space, despite the double team, and threw up a prayer over Embiid that grazed the front rim. The Knicks put in a valiant effort to come back and try to win the game but ended up losing 108-105.
Ben Simmons set the tone early for the 76ers
In the first half, the 76ers started strongly due to the play of Ben Simmons. The reigning rookie of the year set the tone early and often. To start the game, the Knicks’ tallest player was Noah Vonleh at 6’9″. Both Simmons and Embiid licked their chops at the sight of the Knicks starting lineup because they both knew they were going to snack on some barbecue chicken.
Simmons made his presence felt by dominating the paint. If his defender decided to play help defense off of him, Simmons would cut to the basket to receive the pass for an easy dunk or layup. If his defender guarded him on the perimeter, Simmons would drive by him and try to create off the dribble. In addition to his stellar play with the ball in his hand, Simmons also grabbed every rebound in sight. He finished the game with 20 points, 22 rebounds, and 9 assists.
Joel Embiid made an impact in the first half
Embiid also made an impact in the first half due to the fact he towered over every Knicks player. Often, he operated in the post and easily shot over any defender who tried to guard him in the paint. Seeing this, David Fizdale inserted Luke Kornet into the game to slow down Embiid, and it worked. In the second half, Embiid only scored 10 of his 26 points.
Luke Kornet changed the Knicks’ fortunes in the game
Despite being a consistent starter recently, Kornet began the game on the bench. Fizdale opted to insert Lance Thomas in the starting lineup alongside Vonleh, Mudiay, Dotson, and Kevin Knox. The idea was to force Embiid to guard on the perimeter and play fast. Unfortunately, the plan backfired as Embiid played like a man amongst boys in the paint. Once Fizdale decided to insert Kornet into the game, the fortunes of the Knicks changed.
Both Thomas and Vonleh failed to slow down Embiid and be a threat on the perimeter. Not only was Kornet a threat from three (made 3-of-8 from deep), he also provided a tall body in the post which made it difficult for Embiid to operate. At one point, Kornet threw Embiid off his game so much that Embiid lost his cool. Late in the third quarter, Embiid let out his frustration by committing a flagrant foul on Kornet. On the previous play, Kornet appeared to make contact with Embiid which forced him to throw up a bad shot. Kornet’s solid play on offense and defense helped the Knicks get back into the game. He finished with 23 points and had a game-high +/- of 25.
Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina both showed their value against the 76ers
In addition to Kornet’s great play, he also received assistance from rookie phenom Knox and Frank Ntilikina. Knox finished with a career-high 31 points, and he made some clutch shots down the stretch. His most notable clutch shot came late in the fourth quarter. The Knicks were trailing by seven, 107-100, with less than 20 seconds remaining. Knox went in his bag and pulled out the James Harden double step-back three and nailed it to bring the Knicks within four.
Ntilikina’s stat line wasn’t impressive (8 points and 6 assists), but his impact on offense and defense helped uplift the Knicks. He played with consistent energy throughout the game, and his aggressiveness on offense created easy shots for his teammates. Fizdale and his coaching staff will be hoping to improve Ntilikina’s consistency to get today’s performance out of him every game. When Ntilikina was on the floor, the Knicks outscored the 76ers by 10 points.
After today’s loss, the Knicks climb to a tie for second with the Chicago Bulls in the Tank-a-thon standings. Both teams have a cringe-worthy record of 10-33.
The next stop for the Knicks will be in London, England to take on the Washington Wizards on Thursday.