Sixers get bounced in NY by Knicks despite Maxey’s return

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Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (0) celebrates with forward Paul Reed (44) during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks, Sunday, March 3, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)

What a Jekyll and Hyde of a back-and-back.

Coming off of the Philadelphia 76ers‘ victory in the first half of their two-game series against the NY Knicks, both squads faced off yet again at the legendary Madison Square Garden. Both sides would welcome back star players as Tyrese Maxey returned for the Sixers, while OG Anunoby did the same to the court for the Knicks.

Both squads were hoping for an improved performance after the slog that was their initial matchup, and yet, much to Philadelphia’s chagrin, only they saw their opponents improve.

The return of Tyrese Maxey

Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (0) drives to the basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Tyrese Maxey picked up where he left off, being the entire Sixers offense — without Joel Embiid that is. Scoring 10 of the team’s 14 first-quarter points (yes, you read that right, 14 first-quarter points), it seemed that fans were in store for another Maxeyclass, at least if the Sixers were going to remain competitive.

The toll that is being not only the team’s offensive engine but one of the only players capable of knocking down a shot seemed to wear on Maxey over the course of the game. He would finish shooting just two of seven from the field in the latter three-quarters of the game.

Kelly Oubre did what??

Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (9) drives to the basket against New York Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York, Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)

There were few positives for the Sixers on Tuesday night, but Kelly Oubre stood out more than any other player. Finishing with 19 points on 15 shots. Among his offensive highlights was an earth-shattering poster slam over Isaiah Hartenstein in the second quarter.

Hartenstein was notably involved in the incident that took place in Sunday’s game when Knicks wing Donte DiVincenzo wrapped both of Oubre’s legs while Hartenstein pushed the Sixers’ wing over. The whole affair was caused by a blow to DiVincenzo’s head that came while Oubre was attempting to block his shot. Oubre was all smiles after the scrum in game one, and it’s safe to assume he was in a similar mood after posterizing Hartenstein.

Defensively, he wasn’t the pest that plagued Jalen Brunson and the Knicks in their first matchup, but the team’s 27-point loss could hardly be explained solely by that. Although there is one player who should rightfully shoulder a bulk of the blame.

The Tobias Harris problem continues

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Utah Jazz guard Collin Sexton, right, defends against Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris (12) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

In what was perhaps his worst game yet as a professional, Tobias Harris looked downright unplayable at times in this game. Looking thoroughly disengaged and listless, Harris is currently the most concerning unknown about these Sixers. Even if Joel Embiid does return, there is no guarantee that Harris will magically turn things around and become the player he was even earlier this past season.

The situation is so bad that head coach Nick Nurse was asked after the game, and rightfully so, might I add, if there was any consideration of the idea of Harris coming off of the bench, at least for a time, similar to what the team recently did with Buddy Hield.

Nurse stated that the team was not considering that option…at this time. Perhaps down the stretch of this final month of regular season action, Nurse could change his mind, but for now, Harris remains a fixture in the lineup. But, somehow, somehow, Harris must find a way to break out of this repeated funk before it affects the Sixers’ postseason.