Sixers blow big-time lead as Knicks end road winning streak

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Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) shoots over New York Knicks guard Evan Fournier (13) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The Philadelphia 76ers came into tonight’s matchup with the New York Knicks, winners of eight straight games on the road, and looked to continue that streak. The Knicks were looking to avenge a Christmas Day loss to the Sixers, where the they led in the third quarter of that game. New York was on the second night of a back-to-back, and wanted to bounce back after a tough loss in overtime to the Clippers.

Early on in this one, the Sixers built a 21-point lead in the first quarter, looking like they were going to run away with this one. Joel Embiid checked out, Montrezl Harrell came in, and the Philadelphia’s defense just fell apart. No rim protection and bad rotations allowed the Knicks to get back into the game. Head Coach Doc Rivers compounded the issue by using an all-bench lineup to end the first and start the second quarter, which allowed the Knicks to climb all the way back into the game.

Eventually, the Sixers gave up the lead in the fourth quarter for good and lost to the Knicks 108-97. They were outscored 32-18 in the fourth quarter, allowing the Knicks to win their first game after trailing going into the fourth quarter. Jalen Brunson (21 points, seven assists, and five rebounds) and Julius Randle (24 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists) led New York to victory tonight. Evan Fournier, who has been glued to the bench for several weeks, contributed five made three-pointers for the Knicks. The Sixers were paced by Joel Embiid, who had 31 points. No other Sixer reached the 20-point mark.

Embiid’s New York dominance

Joel Embiid continued his dominance against the New York Knicks, scoring 31 and adding 14 rebounds. Unfortunately for the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Month, he couldn’t afford to be on the bench tonight. Anytime he was on the bench, the Knicks capitalized to continue to keep it close. His effort wasn’t enough to help his team get the win.

New year, same issues for the Sixers

Same Issue, New Year! The backup center has been an issue for this team for YEARS. Historically, Joel Embiid’s off-on numbers have shown that this team has lacked a quality reserve option for this team. Harrell was a -15, and Paul Reed was a -14. With the trade deadline approaching this Thursday, the 76ers HAVE to make a move to get a quality option behind Embiid. If they continue to roll with the current options, it will be hard to have any chance to really advance in the playoffs.

Coaching blunders

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers has pushed all the right buttons and coached well over the last month and a half. Tonight was just bad from a coaching perspective. The Sixers led 32-11 in the first quarter and blew that lead to lose the game. Montrezl Harrell has been terrible defensively for the last couple of weeks, and Rivers continues to play him over Paul Reed. Harrell offers no rim protection, switchability, and or solid rebounding. Rivers also went with an all-bench lineup when the Knicks were going on a run.

There should always be a starter or two on the floor, and Embiid or Harden should be on the floor at all times. Tyrese Maxey should also be playing with Embiid when he comes off the bench. Throwing him out there with four other reserves and allowing the defense to key on him doesn’t help his development. While coaching hasn’t been a major issue the last 20-plus games, tonight, old Doc reared its ugly head.