Robinson’s contract extension talks cast large shadow over Knicks’ fall to dominant Embiid, 76ers

Joel Embiid destroyed both Mitchell Robinson and rookie Jericho Sims while James Harden notched a triple-double.

The new 76ers star duo was unstoppable in the Philadelphia 76ers’ 125-109 win over the New York Knicks Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

The 76ers used a 19-4 closing run to break away from a tight 106-105 lead with 7:01 left.

It was the Knicks’ 15th loss in the last 18 games as they continue to fade from the play-in scenario and fall into the NBA Draft lottery range.

Embiid and Harden played off each other, combining for 33 of the 76ers’ NBA season-high 39 free throws. There was nothing the Knicks could do to stop them.

“Unstoppable,” Embiid told reporters after the game describing his two-man game with Harden.

Embiid was dominant with 37 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks. He made a living at the stripes, sinking 23 out of 27 free throws. Harden matched his season-high in assists with 16 to add to his 29 points and 10 rebounds. The 76ers improved to 2-0 with Harden in the lineup since the blockbuster trade deadline swap with Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and future picks.

Robinson and Sims fouled out consecutively early in the fourth quarter to hasten the Knicks’ demise.

Sims played admirably, filling in for backup center Nerlens Noel, who is reportedly nursing a plantar fasciitis injury. Sims grabbed 10 rebounds — all in the first half — and added two assists, one steal, and one block in more than 18 minutes on the floor. But he fouled out with 9:14 left.

A little more than 20 seconds later, Robinson soon followed. Robinson went out with an underwhelming performance anew. He finished with only six points and four rebounds in more than 16 minutes.

Before the game, NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Robinson’s ongoing contract extension talks with the Knicks are becoming a cause of concern.

“For the Knicks, Greeny (Mike Greenberg), the looming free agency of their 23-year-old starting center, Mitchell Robinson—it’s a concern for New York,” Wojnarowski said in the NBA Countdown. “They’ve had talks with his agent, Thad Foucher, about an extension throughout the season. The Knicks can pay Robinson, under the collective bargaining agreement, four years and upward of $48 million before June 30. They’ve not reached an agreement on that, and it’s unclear that they will before free agency when Robinson will be unrestricted.”

Robinson already strung up three consecutive duds that started with a two-point, seven-rebound performance against Drummond and the Brooklyn Nets before the All-Star break. He was held scoreless for the first time this season against Bam Adebayo and Miami Heat last Friday. It coincided with the reports of Robinson’s father went missing for close to two weeks before being found safely earlier this week in Missouri.

Robinson posted a cryptic post on his Instagram story following his scoreless performance against the Heat.

The Knicks have resisted dealing Robinson at the trade deadline despite reportedly drawing interests from several teams, including the Detroit Pistons, who will have plenty of cap space this summer, according to an SNY report.

RJ Barrett and Evan Fournier led the Knicks with 24 apiece.

Barrett continued his ascent with another solid game to follow up his career-high 46-point effort. He added five rebounds and six assists, but his foul shooting woes continued making only 6 of 10 free throws. Fournier was limited to only one field goal attempt in the fourth quarter, which he missed, after torching the 76ers with six treys in the first three quarters.

Immanuel Quickley came out of his shooting funk and exploded for 21 points, but it was not enough to bail out the Knicks. Julius Randle finished with a quiet 16 points while adding 10 rebounds and seven assists.

The Knicks slumped to 11 games under .500 (25-36) and 4.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the final play-in spot with 21 games left. They will face the 76ers again on Wednesday to begin their make-or-break seven-game road trip that will conclude against their crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets two Sundays from now.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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