There would be no Joel Embiid, no James Harden, and not even a Danuel House for the Sixers Friday night as they faced Jalen Brunson and the New York Knicks. Yet even still, the team persevered and fought on as best they could.
Against the Knicks, a team that has lost their last three coming into tonight, the game began as one of the ugliest the Sixers have seen in quite some time. Philadelphia would shoot an uninspiring 38 percent from the floor as, short of Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris, there was little offense to speak of.
Thankfully for the Sixers, the Knicks would have 14 turnovers in the half resulting in just a 58-53 lead for New York. Once the third quarter came around, however, so did the Philadelphia 76ers thanks to their budding, young star.
Birthday boy, Tyrese Maxey, on the first night of his 22nd year, would carry the load tonight for the Sixers.
Thirty-one points tonight all told for the former Kentucky Wildcat as he led his team to a dominant third quarter, though they would ultimately come up short. In the midst of yet another stellar season, Maxey has begun to show that he even still has more in the tank and is one of the budding young stars in the league
While the Maxey turned the tides (for a time) tonight, the contributions by Tobias Harris, De’Anthony Melton, and Paul Reed can certainly not be understated.
Tobias Harris, without question one of the top leaders on this Sixers squad, would finish the night with 23 points and 9 rebounds. The often criticized veteran simply went to work and ensured his teammates did the same, which is a trait that is not only rare but necessary on a contending team.
Offseason addition De’Anthony Melton was everything as advertised and more tonight. Clogging lanes, deflecting passes, hustling past every whistle, but it was his ability as a facilitator that stood out tonight as he dished out nine assists tonight, one short of his career high.
Finally, Paul Reed, whom Sixers fans have been calling for, made all the difference tonight in the minutes he was allotted. With a career-high six steals to go along with four rebounds and two blocks, Reed was the lone defensive presence in the paint tonight for Philadelphia.
Though he finished a -3 on the night, signaling it was not a perfect night for Reed. His impact, however, was far greater as the team fed off his energy to throw the Knicks off their game plan, creating 21 total team turnovers tonight for New York. Reed played a total of 18 minutes tonight. He had played just 27 total minutes in the six games over the rest of the season.
Come the fourth quarter thought the Sixers would slowly defeat themselves. Early on, the Sixers’ bench squad, later joined by De’Anthony Melton, would keep the lead in hand. Once the starters continued to come back in, however, the offense began to suffer. Then, once Paul Reed was subbed out in favor of PJ Tucker, the defense quickly followed.
New York would end the game on a 25-13 run in just under the final seven minutes of the game, and, despite their best efforts, the Sixers would fall by a final score of 106-104.
Philadelphia will have the weekend off before welcoming in the Phoenix Suns Monday night. Joel Embiid is still recovering from what Doc Rivers described as the “flu,” so there is still no word on whether or not he will return to the lineup, but against a 6-1 Phoenix squad, they could certainly use him.