Knicks’ cold 4th quarter spells doom on Christmas Day loss

Joel Embiid, Julius Randle, New York Knicks

The New York Knicks started hot, then cooled off in the fourth quarter as they dropped their third straight loss, 119-112, on Christmas Day against the red-hot Philadelphia 76ers at Madison Square Garden.

The 76ers banked on Georges Niang’s three-point barrage in the early moment of fourth quarter as they wrested control for the first time and never looked back.

It was a sorry loss for the Knicks, who led by as many as 14 in the first half.

Joel Embiid continued his MVP-level play with 35 points and eight rebounds, while James Harden added 29 and 13 assists. But it was Niang, who was the biggest difference-maker.

Niang scored 16 points off the bench, knocking down 4 of 7 three-pointers in the fourth quarter, including three straight that stemmed the tide for the 76ers.

Julius Randle played an inspired game and equaled Embiid’s scoring and rebounding production. Jalen Brunson tried to keep in step with Harden, finishing with 23 points and 11 assists but was bothered by what appeared to be a hip injury late in the game.

New York coach Tom Thibodeau later said the Knicks medical staff looked at Brunson postgame but had no updates yet.

After a 44-point performance against Chicago, Barrett came crashing back to earth. Barrett missed 15 of 21 shots but still finished with a double-double (17 points and 10 rebounds).

Barrett went 1 of 8 in the fourth quarter as the Knicks bled for only 16 points.

“I didn’t like the way we were closing quarter I like the way we started the game. I thought we were established on offense and defense, and then because of the way they shot the three, our ball pressure could have probably been better moving on the flight of the ball, reading the ball a little bit better.”

Tom Thibodeau postgame via Knicks digital

Harden jumpstarted the 76ers’ 21-6 run with a three-pointer to post their biggest lead, 116-102, with 4:48 left. Niang followed up Harden’s lead with three straight in the middle of their torrid run that broke the Knicks’ spirits.

The 76ers connected on 18 of 34 three-pointers, the most Knicks have surrendered over their last 11 games.

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