By: Kylan Watson
After having one of the best records in the month of January the Philadelphia 76ers had a two-game losing streak as they faced the New York Knicks tonight. The Knicks got out to a hot start and were running the Sixers off their home floor. Philly was able to storm back thanks to the duo of Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey who combined for 62-points to help Philly beat New York 119-106.
Philly did not start this game off well, they were missing shots and missing defensive assignments. Jalen Brunson scored 20 of his 30-points in the first quarter and had the Sixers on their heels early in the game. The former Villanova Wildcat took full advantage of the Sixers poor perimeter defense and was able to get whatever he wanted from the perimeter. When that was taken away, he would attack the basket and get his man in foul trouble. Before Philly could even get settled into the game, they were down by 12-points at half-time. The Sixers put more size on him by throwing Tobias Harris and PJ Tucker at him, and that did enough to slow him down and give them enough time to comeback in this contest. However, the Sixers have to improve their perimeter defensive scheme. They cannot continue to let players blow by them and expect to win games. Tonight, they were able to get the win but when they face the better teams in the league that is a hard ask if they aren’t up to the task defensively.
Despite the offensive explosion from Brunson the Sixers were finally able to turn up the heat on the defensive end and make the Knicks a jump shooting team by cutting off the paint. Once that happened Philly was able to get back into the game, thanks to Joel Embiid (35-points, grabbed 11-rebounds, and had six assists), James Harden (20-points, and had 12-assists), and their second unit. The second unit in particular had been a huge negative in the previous two games against the Knicks and Boston Celtics. They were able to bring the Sixers back into a game that was getting away from them. The unit was led by Tyrese Maxey who finally got out of his scoring slump. He scored 27-points and hit five three-pointers in the contest. In one sequence tonight Maxey was able to steal the ball from Jalen Brunson and hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to four-points late in the third quarter. When Maxey has it working like he did tonight Philly has one of the deadliest bench units in the league. With the addition of Jalen McDaniels the bench unit will have another two-way piece that can guard every position on the floor and is shooting 30.5% from three-point range. He will give the Sixers another athletic and lengthy piece to add to a team that is struggling with perimeter defense and consistently hitting their three-pointers.
Philly will now prepare to face the Brooklyn Nets tomorrow night. They will need to keep the ball moving on offense to get high percentage shots. Additionally, they will need to stay attached to their man to keep the backcourt of Cam Thomas and Spencer Dinwiddie at bay, if they want to earn their 35th victory of the season