Instant Observations: 76ers’ Comeback Bid Falls Short Against Knicks, Lowry Impresses in Debut

Instant Observations: 76ers’ Comeback Bid Falls Short Against Knicks, Lowry Impresses in Debut Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers (32-23) battled back from a 23-point deficit before ultimately falling 110-96 to the New York Knicks (34-22) on Thursday night.

Tyrese Maxey finished with 35 points, six rebounds and five assists. Kyle Lowry made his Sixers debut and finished with 11 points, four rebounds and five assists. Buddy Hield added 14 points and six assists.

Joel Embiid (left knee meniscus procedure), De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine stress response) and Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise) remained out for the Sixers. However, head coach Nick Nurse before the game told reporters Melton is expected to make his return from a month-long absence on Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Knicks were led in the win by Jalen Brunson, who totaled 21 points and 12 assists. Precious Achiuwa finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Josh Hart recorded 18 points and 12 rebounds. New York was without Julius Randle (dislocated right shoulder), OG Anunoby (right elbow surgery) and Mitchell Robinson (left ankle surgery).

The Sixers next take on the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night. Here are some instant observations from the loss to the Knicks:

– The Sixers’ offensive performance against the Knicks was putrid, although there was one major exception. Maxey was the lone player who had any semblance of success offensively. He aggressively attacked the basket, resulting in either made shots or trips to the free-throw line. Maxey can at times rely too much on trying to get to the free-throw line. He was not like that against the Knicks, instead looking to finish through the contact. While the rest of the Sixers’ offense looked disjointed, Maxey provided a consistent spark to help keep them afloat.

For as bad as things looked early in the game, the Sixers somehow cut a 23-point halftime deficit down to around 10 points in the third quarter. Maxey’s performance was at the center of the Sixers’ comeback attempt. He scored 18 points in the third quarter alone, putting on a clinic against the Knicks defense. While he was often the lone source of offense against the Knicks, unfortunately he ran out of gas in the fourth quarter and the team’s comeback effort fell short.

– After 18 years of playing in the NBA, Lowry made his debut for his hometown team. The Philadelphia native received a huge round of applause upon checking into the game in the first quarter. His first bucket in a Sixers uniform was a crafty reverse layup at the end of the shot clock.

Lowry also showcased his playmaking ability by dishing out an alley-oop to Tobias Harris. In addition to his play on the floor, his veteran leadership was also immediately apparent. He was seen coaching up both KJ Martin and Paul Reed after a timeout in the first quarter. Lowry briefly left the game after taking an incidental shot to the face from Jericho Sims. The team announced he had a facial laceration, received stitches and was able to return to the game.

Upon returning in the second half, he continued to put his imprint on the game. He provided an important combination of shotmaking and connective passing. Adding him to the roster will help diversify the Sixers’ offense. Lowry can play both with and away from the ball, allowing him to be a good fit whether coming off the bench or playing next to Maxey. He has only suited up in one game for the Sixers, but it is already clear he has the makings of a perfect role player.

– The Sixers were atrocious defensively in this game. The Knicks carved them up like a knife going through butter. The Sixers constantly gave up dribble penetration, crashed down into the paint and then gave up a wide open 3-pointer. The Knicks shot 10-of-21 from 3-point range in the first half alone. When your starting guards are Maxey and Hield, it is not shocking to see them get beat off the dribble. However, the Sixers have to be more disciplined once that occurs instead of crashing and giving up open looks from deep.

Nurse adjusted the Sixers’ defense on Brunson midway through the third quarter. After both Maxey and Hield consistently got dusted on the perimeter, Nurse made Kelly Oubre Jr. the primary defender on Brunson. Oubre, not typically known for his defensive ability, used his length to bother Brunson. That defensive adjustment played a large role in slowing down the Knicks’ offense in the second half.

Outside of having some brief success defensively, Oubre did not have a good night against the Knicks. He continued to struggle as a rebounder, at one point getting dunked on by Sims after missing out on a defensive rebound. His play was not any better on the offensive end of the floor. He is an inefficient shooter who still pulls the trigger on far too many jumpers he should not be taking. As the Sixers get healthier, Oubre’s minutes should be lowered a significant amount.

– The Sixers were also destroyed in the rebounding battle. They were out-rebounded 45-38 overall and 12-7 on the offensive glass. The Knicks scored 19 second-chance points, including some backbreaking ones that put the Sixers away late in the fourth quarter. While the Sixers are without their best rebounder (Embiid), that is no excuse to be as bad as they are on the glass.

– Harris put together another vastly disappointing performance, something that is unfortunately starting to become the norm. He looked lost defensively, but his offensive issues are a far bigger problem. He lacks the ability to quickly read the floor and make good decisions with the basketball. As a result, the ball gets swung over to him and the possession dies more often than not. He also has a habit of disappearing offensively. With Embiid out of the lineup, there is no excuse for Harris to not consistently look for his own shot. Instead, he took just nine shots against the Knicks and failed to eclipse 10 points.

If Harris is going to fail to make any positive impact, Nurse needs to be more willing to sit him on the bench. The team has other options who are capable of producing at Harris’ position. Martin possesses insane athleticism and is a solid rebounder. He finished with six points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes against the Knicks. In addition to Martin, Ricky Council IV’s play of late warrants consideration of a consistent rotation spot.

Nic Batum made his return from a nine-game absence with a left hamstring strain. He went scoreless and committed five fouls in 18 minutes of action. At 35 years old, Batum is going to take some time to get back into his typical form after missing extended time. Hopefully that happens sooner rather than later.

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