Here are some quick takes from the Sixers 108-92 win over the New York Knicks…
Off the bench spark
As he has so many times, T.J. McConnell gave the Sixers a major spark off the bench on both ends of the court. He ended with a triple-double, 10 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in 37 minutes, 10 seconds. On one play in particular in the third quarter, he stole a Michael Beasley pass and fed Robert Covington for a dunk. Shortly after, McConnell was hammered while on defense attempting to get around a screen by 6-foot-10, 250-pound Kyle O’Quinn, forcing an offensive foul on the Knicks’ forward-center. A fourth quarter no-look pass to Amir Johnson wasn’t converted, but it gave the Sixers’ center two free throws.
Not showing early fire
Remember in the previous four seasons when outmanned 76ers teams would routinely play harder than their opposition, but couldn’t make up for the talent discrepancy? That is what Monday’s game with the New York Knicks felt like. The Knicks, who trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half, got to within 57-55 at halftime and a 73-73 tie with just under four minutes left in the third quarter. The Sixers seemed to be playing like a team that was confident it would win, but didn’t appear to be overly extending itself. The Sixers began pulling away at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth to finally take command. It’s hard to maintain top intensity during an 82-game schedule, but the Sixers were outplayed for long stretches until they finally got serious.
Dario’s first half excellence
The reason the Sixers led at halftime was the play of Dario Saric, who had scored 16 points by then. Saric bailed the Sixers out with some key baskets as the shot clock was winding down. He was moving well without the ball and was the recipient of some excellent Ben Simmons passes. Saric stayed relatively quiet until hitting two fourth quarter three-pointers. He ended the night with 24 points, but his early play was the real key.
Simmons shy near the hoop
Ben Simmons continues to get to the basket at will, but once near the hoop, he refuses to finish. Maybe he doesn’t want to get fouled and go to the free throw line. He entered the game shooting 56. 9 percent from the foul line. In the first half alone, New York had Lance Thomas, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee taking turns guarding Simmons. He had no problem taking any of that trio off the dribble, but finishing or waiting to finish remains a problem. It seems like Simmons will take it strong to the basket when he knows he can dunk. Knowing this, the Knicks were playing off him, almost daring him to shoot. That said, he ended with 13 points, six assists and four steals.
Lighter load for Embiid
One thing about playing a team with lesser talent is that the Sixers’ Joel Embiid didn’t have to play heavy minutes, even with the game so close late in the third quarter. Embiid, after playing 34 minutes in Saturday’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers, played just 23:30. He was highly productive with 17 points and six rebounds, but he didn’t need to be his dominating self.