Studs and Duds: Knicks rollercoaster continues in loss against 76ers

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) looks to pass the ball against Philadelphia 76ers guards Kyle Lowry (7) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (9) and forward Paul Reed (44) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

An absent Joel Embiid in this one, and yet the New York Knicks were still not able to handle business against the Philadelphia 76ers. A sudden lack of urgency on the part of the Knicks is an attribute that must be gone before the playoffs. New York shot 32% from the field and 22% from three en route to a six-point loss while scoring the lowest points total they have all season. The 76ers came out on top with a final score of 79-73.

Studs: The Knicks will be whole soon 

In this rollercoaster of a season, Head Coach Tom Thibodeau gave a pleasant update on the status of OG Anunoby, Mitchell Robinson, and Julius Randle:

“They can travel. Hopefully, OG gets cleared and should be able to play,” stated Thibodeau in the most recent media presser. 

The return of an x-factor like OG Anunoby is a sigh of relief for a rotation that’s been stretched to the brink in his absence. The level at which Anunoby plays defense is that of a machine, and overexerting guys like Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo as lockdown two-way players has run its course.

Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson traveling with the team indicates more frequent updates on their status, as the playoffs are only a blink away. The New York Knicks are doing well as the fourth seed, but with Orlando only half a game back, as well as Indiana not even two games back, the drop-off to play-in status should be all the urgency needed to avoid the unpredictability of an NBA play-in. 

Duds: The Knicks’ worst showing of the season 

The Knicks are 1-2 in their current four-game home stand. Instead of making a separation in the Eastern Conference standings while allowing the core to return healthy, the Knicks have been on autopilot as the attrition of the regular season shows itself.

In this home stretch, New York has the 29th-ranked offensive rating while having the best defensive rating in the NBA. When speaking with the media postgame, Jalen Brunson kept it short, saying, “I gotta be better as a player, as a leader, to make sure we’re all ready to go.”

Brunson’s accountability is strong leadership, but he led the team with 19 points on 27% from the field. “Brunsonomics” suggests that when Brunson makes it look easy, offensively getting to his spots and knocking down shot after shot, the team’s ceiling is through the roof.

Abysmal team shooting splits coinciding with an off night for Brunson as well saw one of the worst displays from New York this season. Donte DiVincenzo and Josh Hart combined for 24 points on 33% from the field. A light scuffle occurred between Donte DiVincenzo and Kelly Oubre Jr. Nothing was the result, just frustration from DiVincenzo, given how things were going for the Knicks offensively.

Takeaways from the Knicks’ loss to the 76ers

Poor cadence and worse energy devolved the Knicks to the level of their competition. The 76ers are good without Joel Embiid, as the level of defense from Philadelphia caught New York off guard and set the tone for one of the lowest-scoring games of the season.

Still, without three rotation players, New York didn’t get the job done as it should’ve. Refocus and regroup will be the goal in the upcoming rematch against Philadelphia on Tuesday. Giving up what should’ve been a win for the Knicks, the 76ers have garnered strong confidence as they look to steal back-to-back wins in Madison Square Garden. Jalen Brunson averages 23 points per game this season against the 76ers as a promising bounce back should be on Tuesday night. 

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