Joel Embiid, JJ Redick, and T.J. McConnell make it a merry Christmas
Embiid led the way with 25 points, 16 rebounds, and three blocks, and gave the gift of a Christmas win on Monday. After five straight losses, the Sixers made sure to play a tough 48 minutes. Falling apart in the third and fourth quarter has been the Sixers M.O. lately, but the Sixers hung in even during the Knicks attempts to run away. Redick helped keep the Sixers on track in the first half with 15 of his 24 points coming before intermission and McConnell stepped up in the second half. Embiid and McConnell combined for 20 points in the third quarter to give the Sixers a small cushion that helped when the Knicks went on a run to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter.
Sixers keep miscues to a minimum
This was just the seventh time this season the Sixers have had fewer than 16 turnovers and the impact was felt. The Knicks turned the Sixers 15 turnovers into just 15 points which is a far cry from most Sixers opponents this season. Turnovers have continually been a problem for the Sixers through the tanking years and into this season, and Sixers coach Brett Brown often has to address the glaring amount of miscues his team makes. But on Christmas Day, the Sixers took care of the ball and it paid off.
Quiet night for Ben Simmons
This was just the second game for Simmons that ended without a double-digit stat of any kind. Simmons finished with eight points, eight rebounds, and three assists. When there are other guys that are stepping up and the teams’ defense is on point, a non-aggressive Simmons does not stand out as a problem. But, there won’t be many games this season where Simmons can be as quiet. He needs to take more than eight shots, make contact, and convert at the free-throw line. I know that asking for Simmons to be aggressive sounds like a broken record at this point, but that should say something. Not all games will be as forgiving as the one against the Knicks was.
Knicks from three
Heading into Monday’s game the Knicks were last in the league in three-point attempts, averaging 21.9 per game and the Sixers did a good job of keeping the perimeter shots to a minimum. The Sixers held New York to just three shot attempts beyond the arc in the first half and the Knicks didn’t connect on any of them. After intermission the Knicks took more shots but the Sixers’ perimeter defense stayed strong holding New York to 4-of-12 from three to finish the game at 26 percent from deep
Christmas Day crowd
I’ve covered a few Christmas Day NBA games but this was the first time I’ve been around for the first game of the day. Apparently there’s a big difference in the energy. I really expected more from the fans in Madison Square Garden but I guess there’s something to be said for a family-filled gathering and gift exchange that all has to take place with enough time to get to the arena by noon. Circumstances aside, the Christmas Day crowd in New York was a little lethargic through the first half. The crowd, a surprising mix of Sixers and Knicks fans, found its mojo in the second half and lifted spirits but it took a little longer than expected.