NEW YORK – The 76ers finally got back to winning an expected breather game.
They defeated the New York Knicks, 108-105, in Sunday’s matinee at Madison Square Garden. The Sixers (28-16) were coming off losses to two other struggling squads, the Atlanta Hawks (Friday) and Washington Wizards (Wednesday).
“It was great to get a win,” coach Brett Brown said. “Especially after the past two games, it was good to back on track.”
Ben Simmons had a huge hand in the outcome. The 6-foot-10, 240-pounder excelled as the starting point guard and backup power forward on this day. The 2017-18 rookie of the year came one assist shy of his eighth triple-double of the season.
Simmons had a career-high 22 rebounds to go with 20 points, making 10 of 13 shots, and nine assists. The 22 and 20 made Simmons the youngest Sixer to accomplish the feat in team history.
His highlights were a turnaround jumper and an alley-oop dunk.
The Australian got a step on Mario Hezonja in the paint and caught a one-handed alley-oop pass from T. J. McConnell with 3 minutes, 53 seconds left in the first quarter. Then he swished an 11-foot turnaround jumper over Lance Thomas with 6:42 left in the half.
“I’m just trying to get better,” said Simmons, who had been reluctant to shoot jumpers.
He helped to clinch the victory with an offensive rebound with his team clinging to five-point lead with 1:21 to play. His board led to JJ Redick’s three-pointer to make it a 104-96 game 13 seconds later.
“I think that’s just me making an emphasis on rebounding the ball and getting to the rim,” he said of his career-best board work.
Joel Embiid had a team-high 26 points to go with eight rebounds and a season-high six blocked shots after missing Friday’s game with a sore right ankle. Redick added 22 points, while Jimmy Butler had 16.
Knicks swingman Kevin Knox finished with a game- and career-high 31 points. But the rookie couldn’t stop New York (10-33) from losing its fourth straight game and for the 12th time in the last 13 games. Sunday’s contest marked the fourth of five straight games against losing teams for the Sixers.
They intended to use these contests as a confidence boost heading into a tough 12-game stretch that begins on Thursday at the Indiana Pacers. The Sixers' final tune-up comes Tuesday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves (21-22) at the Wells Fargo Center.
That game will be a must-see contest. Butler will face the squad that, at his wish, traded him to Philly on Nov. 12.
While they won Sunday, the Sixers still have some work to do. They kept letting the Knicks the back into the game before escaping with a three-point win.
“We have to be better closing out games," Brown said.
The Sixers had a commanding 18-point cushion (26-8) with 4:45 left in first quarter. But the Knicks went on a run to pull within eight points (40-32) at the 9:42 mark of the second.
Then the Sixers turned it back on, opening up a 24-point lead (66-42) with 1:25 remaining in the half. However, they clung to an 83-82 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
The Sixers responded with an 11-0 run to start the fourth quarter, taking a 94-82 cushion only to lead, 96-94, with 3:02 left. They responded by opening up two eight-point cushions before escaping with the three-point win.