Recap: One Overtime Was Not Enough To Decide This Game

Jan 18, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard JaKarr Sampson (9) grabs a pass intended for New York Knicks center Robin Lopez (8) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. New York Knicks won 119-113 in double overtime. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 18, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard JaKarr Sampson (9) grabs a pass intended for New York Knicks center Robin Lopez (8) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. New York Knicks won 119-113 in double overtime. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia 76ers could not close out this game against the New York Knicks, as it went to two overtimes.

119. 27. 113. 93. Final

What a game! In an end-to-end thriller the New York Knicks sneak away with the victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Before we get into the game, it’s important to note that the game was played on Martin Luther King Day, celebrating the life of a man who made his mark in America for his leadership during the Civil Rights Movement. His bravery to fight the social norms of the time, of which racial inequality was prevalent, started the shift in people’s’ minds on how to treat their fellow man. The NBA makes a point every year to give tribute to his life and impact, and the Knicks even featured his famous “I Have A Dream” speech with the help of the on-court animations.

Speaking of which! I was fortunate to be able to attend today’s game in New York and took a couple of videos:

I’m sure everyone will be interested in this first one, which shows Joel Embiid shooting around prior to the game. For my (far, far) seat Joel looks to be in shape with good form on his jumper. I recorded a video before this but the woman who was standing at the beginning of this vid interrupted that one too, but I wanted to show that Joel was taking and making his shots from beyond the arc with ease. I guess the rumors that whenever Joel is allowed to practice with the team he dominates is easier to believe, eh?

This video was of the pregame introductions of the New York Knicks, which is also cool because of the on-court animations which was also featured for MLK’s speech I mentioned above. I couldn’t get a video of that because I didn’t get my phone out in time, and thought it would be a disservice to his speech if I were to only upload only part of it. Suffice to say there were goosebumps throughout the crowd from the tribute (FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST… FREE. AT. LAST.)

Back to the game, the first half showed a feisty Sixers offense lead by Jahlil Okafor. For the first quarter and most of the second, Jahlil’s prints were all over the game. His offensive dominance kept the Sixers afloat when no one else could hit a shot. Robin Lopez had no answer on defense as Jah was able to abuse RoLo almost every time he got the ball. The rest of the Sixers struggled to keep up with him, but with the way Jah dominated no other Sixer was really needed on offense.

Defense is where the trouble was for Philly. Carmelo Anthony showed up for the Knicks and got his fair share of touches throughout the game, shooting 28 times to get a total of 19 points. Sitting from the stands, this is where much of the frustration for this game came from. Carmelo was clearly rusty from the outset yet Philly was guarding him way too close. Yes, there is always the fear that after a few shots he could get hot but he must prove it first. After Melo realized that the Sixers were sending extra defenders his way, he started passing to the open man leading to many buckets in the paint for the Knicks. Especially frustrating was that this had to be a coaching call since it consistently happened throughout the game. This lack of adjustment hurt us.

On top of that, Kristaps Porzingis had a game ending his night with 16 point, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, 1 steal, and multiple highlight plays. When watching KP play you are surprised on how agile a 7’3″ player can be; he exudes confidence and basketball intelligence throughout the game. This point is proven by an early dunk when he realized Nerlens Noel was trailing him down the court after a pass from Jose Calderon, and another play when he bothered Carl Landry just enough after a Philly defensive rebound to coax him into a steal for an easy basket. This guy is the real deal. ‘Staps left the game after landing awkwardly after a rebound late in the game and did not return.

The third quarter the familiar story of the Sixers struggling to score showed up again. The Knicks were able to rev up their offense, especially Arron Afflalo who feasted on midrange jumpers, mostly over Isaiah Canaan. No adjustments happened this quarter leading to a lost Sixer offense. The dump-the-ball-to-Jah playcall wasn’t working like in was in the first half and the Sixers only scored 16 points in the frame.

Coach Brown finally made his adjustments in the fourth, where a lineup of Ish Smith, Canaan, Hollis Thompson, Robert Covington, and Nerlens Noel working together. This lineup gave energy and enthusiasm from the onset, and the Sixers quickly tied the game up to quiet the crowd. The end of the fourth had a couple of reckless shots by Canaan, which of course went in; Hollis getting fouled on a 3-point attempt, missing all three free throws, and then hitting a three; a late Ish jumper to put the Sixers up by three with less than 14 seconds left in the game; and then a Carmelo three to send the game into overtime.

In overtime we saw an Ish-to-Nerlens alley-oop to get the crowd worried, but Afflalo just wouldn’t give up in this period with big free throws and a jumper. His 25 points on 8/17 shooting really kept the Knicks afloat while Carmelo struggles, and many of his points came from passes from Melo out of double teams while the rest came from backing down Canaan for midrange jumpers. With the Knicks up three at the end of this period the Sixers had one last shot; Coach Brown drew up a play for RoCo to catch the ball from the inbounder on the right wing for the three. When sweeping around the perimeter, the Knicks were able to fight through the screens to contest RoCo’s shot. His awkward, leaning attempt was all desperation… and it also banked in to tie the game. Melo airballed the ensuing possession to get this game into OT #2.

The biggest thing I noticed throughout the final frames was how hard Coach Brown was riding his lineup of Ish, Isaiah, Hollis, RoCo, and Nerlens. Only subbing out Canaan for Jerami Grant on defensive possessions, the other players played without rest. That lineup played 44, 24, 41, 46, and 47 minutes, respectively, and it showed at the end of the game. As well as they played to get up to this point in the game, they were all gassed and didn’t have enough left in the tank to pull out the victory.

Next: Philadelphia 76ers Players Honor Martin Luther King Jr. With Kicks

Player of the Game

I don’t want to give this award to any one player. Not because they don’t deserve it, but because the opposite: every single one of the Sixers has been playing their butt off for their team recently, even if the record doesn’t show it.

There has not been a three game “streak” where Philly has played this well. First, against the Chicago Bulls the Sixers were up large against the team many say can challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers for the East title. Yes Philly did end up losing that game, but it took a Herculean effort by Jimmy Butler for the Bulls to eke out their win.

Next the Portland Trailblazers came to Philadelphia and were promptly dealt with, with Jahlil showing his full repertoire to finish the Blazers off early. His confidence grew enough that he was taking and making shots with a toe inside the 3-point line. The kid can learn to shoot those shots with his touch with some additional reps.

And then this game where Jah was again prominent as the game’s starter, while Nerlens and Ish featured as the finishers. Coach Brown has found his lineup to close out games, with a balance of feisty defense and spacious offense which got the team back into this game and put up a fight against a Knicks team fighting for playoff positioning.

Sure, people can condone these past three games as “the Sixers being the Sixers and losing again,” but they are not seeing the growth of this team from an individual perspective, like Hollis, RoCo, and Canaan getting a consistent groove outside the arc, or a teamwide perspective, with the clear end-of-game lineup strategy, leading to better things in the future.

These Sixers will make more noise the more the season goes along so let’s remember these darker days to appreciate the future even more.

Looking Ahead

Philadelphia gets a one day rest but have to travel to face the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. Currently maneuvering for a playoff spot, the Magic look for a win against the Sixers. On the other hand there has been much change in Philly since their last meeting, so this game can go either way for both teams!