PLAYER GRADES: Philadelphia 76ers 90, New York Knicks 87

Tobias Harris | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Tobias Harris | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks might be bad, but the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers were playing the second game of a back-to-back and, as their record has shown, they are not so hot on the road, even when rested. That presented a visit to Madison Square Garden as a challenge.

The Knicks are packed with power forwards and not much else, so the Philadelphia 76ers got into a halfcourt slug-fest with the rare team bigger than them. New York was without its starting backcourt of Dennis Smith Jr. and R.J. Barrett due to injury, but Detroit castoff Reggie Bullock and multi-team castoff Elfrid Payton torched them in the second half.

So, instead of blowing them out, like most teams, the 76ers trailed the Knicks (the freakin’ Knicks!) by a point with less than 30 second to go in the game.

To avoid complete embarrassment and 48 hours of talk radio chatter about how Brett Brown should be fired, Tobias Harris hit a three-pointer with 27.7 seconds left to give the Sixers an 89-87 lead. Harris and Ben Simmons then pinned Julius Randle to the sideline and he dribbled out of bounds.

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Furkan Korkmaz made one of two free throws for a three-point lead and New York’s Marcus Morris Sr. had a half-court three-point attempt to send the game into overtime glance off the side of the rim to give the 76ers a 90-87 victory.

Philadelphia broke a six-game losing streak on the road and is now 28-16 on the season, sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks fall to 11-32 and lose their third straight.

The third period was mostly the Sixers turning the ball over, featuring players being paid a lot of money not doing much while the Knicks stole the ball. Entering the fourth quarter the Sixers clung to a 70-69 lead.

To the start the second period, the Knicks seemed helpless to stop the lineup of Raul Neto, Norvel Pelle, James Ennis, Josh Richardson, and Tobias Harris (really). Not a bang-up group of shooters, but great on defense as the Sixers bolted out to a 37-27 lead and forced New York to call time out. The Sixers put some more starters in, the offense got (shock) clunky, and the Knicks ended up tying the score. A couple late baskets did give the 76ers with a 52-46 halftime lead.

Simmons led the Sixers with 16 at halftime as the Knicks, a team composed almost entirely of power forwards, never were able to keep up with him.

In the first period, the score was tied at 23-23 with about a minute to go when steals by Matisse Thybulle (which resulted in a Korkmaz three) and  Josh Richardson (and ensuing dunk) put the Sixers ahead 28-23 and they were up by three at the end of the quarter.

Guard. Philadelphia 76ers. JOSH RICHARDSON. B. <strong>34 mins | 18 pts | 3 reb | 4 ast | 2 stl | 1 blk | 7 TO | 7-15 FG | 1-5 3PT| 3-3 FT | 2 PF | +17 | </strong>Although he was not surrounded with many play-makers at the start of second and fourth quarters, Richardson was able to lead the Sixers to <a href=

Philadelphia 76ers. BEN SIMMONS. B+. <strong>40 mins | 21 pts | 7 reb | 8 ast | 2 stl | 0 blk | 0 TO | 9-15 FG | 0-0 3PT| 3-8 FT | 1 PF | -3 | </strong>Since almost the entire roster of the Knicks was about his size, Simmons could not overpower them like he can other opponents but he had the quickness advantage. On the fast break he was almost unstoppable and was able to score on drives on slower defenders. Once again, his scoring faded as the game went on. He only scored two points in the fourth quarter and that has become a pattern.  His foul shooting was below .500 which hurt. His defense down the stretch was stellar and he did not commit a turnover, which is great.. Point guard

FURKAN KORKMAZ. A-. <strong>22 mins | 17 pts | 0 reb | 0 ast | 0 stl | 0 blk | 0 TO | 6-12 FG | 3-7 3PT| 2-3 FT | 4 PF | -7 |</strong><p>Korkmaz picked up where he left off against Chicago, nailing two early three-pointers and finishing with eight points in the first period. For whatever reason, coach Brett Brown did not play him much in the second quarter. When the Knicks played him more tightly in the second half, Korkmaz showed he is more than a jump shooter, scoring on floaters and drives. Defensively, the Knicks did not have anyone who could really take advantage of him off the dribble, which helped him be adequate on that end. He did miss what could have been a massive free throw in the final seconds and, outside of shooting, did not contribute anything statistically, but he is certainly is still on the upswing with his game with his third straight game over 15 points.</p>. Guard/Forward. Philadelphia 76ers

B. <strong>34 mins | 15 pts | 8 reb | 3 ast | 0 stl | 0 blk | 2 TO | 5-13 FG | 4-8 3PT| 1-1 FT | 2 PF | -2 | </strong><p>If you watch the final 30 seconds of the game, you would think Harris had a great game, coming up with what turned-out to be the game-winning basket (which was actually a broken play as Richardson was suppose to get the ball) and then helping Simmons to cause a Knicks turnover. Harris never really got into rhythm until the end, although he made half of his three-point attempts (but was strangely 1-for-5 on two-point shots). He also was unable to stop the Knicks from successfully pounding the offensive boards (12 offensive rebounds). But he came through when his team needed him the most.</p>. Forward. Philadelphia 76ers. TOBIAS HARRIS

B-. <strong>15 mins | 0 pts | 4 reb | 2 ast | 0 stl | 2 blk | 0 TO | 0-0 FG | 0-0 3PT| 0-0 FT | 2 PF | +9 | </strong>Enjoy watching Pelle block shots because it might be a while before you see it again unless you watch the Blue Coats. As a two-way player, he is only allowed 45 days on the 76ers roster and Saturday was day number 44. Against a huge New York squad, Pelle was needed. He caused chaos around the rim and he finished a plus-9, only Richardson had a better plus/minus on the team. He did not attempt a shot but was a willing screener. Other NBA teams are reportedly looking to swoop in and grab Pelle when he exhausts his eligibility. It will be an interesting dilemma for general manager <a rel=. Center. Philadelphia 76ers. NORVELL PELLE

One injury note is Al Horford said he hurt his hand during the game and it was still sore afterward. With Embiid still out, the Sixers could be really short-handed if Horford is out for any decent period of time.

Next stop on the Sixers’ three-game road trip is a Monday afternoon visit to the Barclays Center to face Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets.

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One last note of interest, the Sixers are 13-1 when they limit their opponent to less than 100 points, so defense really does win games.