Sixers-Knicks observations, 'best' and 'worst' awards: T.J. McConnell's grit, Ben Simmons' defense, and more

Here are my key takeaways and “best” and “worst” awards from the 76ers’ 108-92 home win over the New York Knicks on Monday night.

Five observations

T.J. McConnell recorded his first career triple-double, finishing with 10 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds. He became the first 76er to record a triple-double off the bench. He was so active offensively that it was a miracle he had the energy to grab tough rebounds, but he never left a play unattended on defense, and he was rightfully named player of the game.

Ben Simmons’ defensive awareness is a marvel. His length is a weapon that is underestimated by the opposing team. He racked up four steals and three blocks in what was a seemingly quiet night for him. But the box score doesn’t exactly tell the whole defensive story. Simmons is so versatile and so active on the defensive end that teams regularly swing the ball away from him because they can’t get a sight line around him or create enough space to make a play.

— A lot has been asked of Dario Saric this season. His position and his role in said position have changed and evolved, and with minor hiccups along the way, he has managed to rise to the challenge. When watching Saric play, it is often easy to forget — as it is with many of the Sixers — that he is so young (23). He had a game-high 24 points and shot beautifully from three in leading the Sixers to a fourth straight victory.

JJ Redick had a very weird moment in Monday’s win. With .07 seconds left in the third quarter, he appeared to purposefully foul Courtney Lee when the Sixers had a nine-point lead and did not have a foul to give, sending a nearly perfect free-throw shooter to the line at a time when it was completely unnecessary. Knowing the foul count is just as important as being aware of the score, number of timeouts, and shot clock.

Poll

Does Ben Simmons deserve to be an all-star?

Justin Anderson suffered a sprained right ankle during the game, which means Marco Belinelli‘s addition could not have come at a better time for the Sixers. Coach Brett Brown elected to put Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot in for seven relief minutes and let Jerryd Bayless rack up another DNP. Brown said he intends to play Belinelli on Wednesday against the Heat in the Sixers’ final game before the all-star break. Monday’s game served as a perfect example of why Belinelli agreed to join the Sixers, underscoring the unselfish nature that attracted him to the young team.

‘Best’ and ‘worst’ awards

— Best performance: Hands down, T.J. McConnell. It’s not just about the triple-double. He is somehow continually able to put the team on his back and, without a word, infuse energy into this team at the most crucial of moments, and he did it again Monday. He deserves this award and much more.

— Worst performance: Yikes. I didn’t even remember seeing Lance Thomas play and he was in the starting lineup. Granted, he played only 14 minutes, but in that time, he never attempted a shot and did nothing to help his team, finishing with a minus-8 rating.

— Best defensive performance: Starting to sound like a broken record. T.J. McConnell narrowly beats Ben Simmons for this one. McConnell had a game-high six steals, tying a career high for the point guard. He also grabbed eight defensive rebounds, had multiple deflections, and forced Kyle O’Quinn into an offensive foul at a turning point in the game.

— Worst statistic: The Knicks had a dismal three-point shooting night, going just 6 for 24 from long range.

— Best statistic: Dario Saric shot 8 for 12 from deep (66.7 percent). His three-point shooting continues to improve, and he was a sniper against the Knicks.

— Worst of the worst:  If the Knicks were having a bad shooting night, Tim Hardaway Jr. was not helping out. He took eight shots from beyond the arc and failed to connect every time.