Knicks suffer another heartbreaker but Thibodeau finds silver linings

Julius Randle missed his last seven attempts. RJ Barrett muffed a crucial wide-open, 10-foot fadeaway. Immanuel Quickley bricked a potential game-tying three-pointer.

A banged up and short-handed New York Knicks team faded down the stretch as the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers improved to 18-3 at home with a come-from-behind 99-96 win at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.

Randle survived a nasty fall in the second half while Quickley went back to the locker room to retape a tweaked ankle. But they were running on fumes and didn’t have the usual fire late in the game to drag the Knicks to the finish line.

Long Island’s Tobias Harris scored six of his game-high 30 points inside the final 2:26 to lift the 76ers over the Knicks, who just came from an emotionally-charged loss in Brooklyn.

Playing on the last night of a back-to-back schedule against the East’s top two teams, the Knicks actually had the game in control for the most part until midway through the fourth quarter.

After Randle gave the Knicks a 10-point lead, 71-61, with 7:57 remaining in the third quarter, fatigue took its toll. Randle scored only on one free throw the rest of the way.

The Knicks All-Star finished with 19 points, 15 rebounds, and eight assists but didn’t have the legs to carry the team to the finish line.

Up by nine heading into the final quarter, the Knicks came up with only 14 points, four in the last 3:18 that did them in.

Still without their key players Mitchell Robinson (broken hand), Elfrid Payton (hamstring injury), and Derrick Rose (health and safety protocols), Tom Thibodeau was forced to play Randle and Barrett heavy minutes.

Randle played in the 40s in both losses against the Nets and the 76ers.

Barrett had 17 points on just 7-for-17 shooting in 41 minutes against Ben Simmons and the 76ers.

Quickley scored 13 points in his second straight start but only hit 1-for-5 from deep. His last miss came in the final 12.8 seconds, with the Knicks trailing by three.

Despite going 1-3 in the tough road trip, Tom Thibodeau was consoled by the fact that they dragged the top two teams in the East — Philadelphia, and Brooklyn — down to the last possession.

“We’re short-handed. That’s part of it,” Thibodeau said. “Whenever one guy goes out, it’s an opportunity for another guy to step in. Sometimes you find some things that can be very good for the team. I think taking a look at the Brooklyn game and this game, there were a lot of good things to take from it, and obviously, we fell short in the end. It shows us the work necessary for us to get over the hump. And we have to continue to work.”

Quickley stepped up and averaged 17 points and 2.5 assists as a starter. Frank Ntilikina, though, failed to capitalize on the opportunity as he went scoreless on both games. But to Ntilikina’s credit, he had his moments on the defensive end, particularly in the fourth quarter against the Nets.

Birthday boy Reggie Bullock, who turned 30 on Tuesday, had another strong outing with 12 points but had a crucial error when he stepped out of bounds on a three-point attempt.

Alec Burks and Taj Gibson combined for 29 points off the bench.

The Knicks head home and will host four games at the Madison Square Garden, beginning with the Orlando Magic on Thursday.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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