PHILADELPHIA — If there was ever a January midweek game the Knicks absolutely, positively needed to win, this was it.
Instead, they lost it in the worst possible way, quite possibly at the worst moment of the season.
“We should be telling ourselves this is unacceptable,” Carmelo Anthony fumed after the 98-97 loss. “We were winning this game. Coming down the stretch we were winning with 27 second left in the game. We came up short. That should be unacceptable to all of us.”
The Knicks dropped a heartbreaker here against the Sixers Wednesday night, losing for the ninth time in 10 tries. Kristaps Porzingis put up an air ball on the Knicks’ final shot at one end and they lost it on a buzzer-beater at the other when Porzingis couldn’t defend T.J. McConnell’s baseline jumper that sent the Wells Fargo Center into hysterics.
“That was a tough shot,” said the slumping Porzingis, who had only seven points on 3-for-10 shooting. “I was right there. I was really close. Just seeing the shot went in, it was heartbreaking for sure. But this is sports, that’s how it goes. Hopefully this will only make us stronger.”
T.J. McConnell is the unlikely hero for the Sixers, draininer the buzzer-beater.
Anthony scored a team-best 28 points but was blanked in the fourth quarter, when the Knicks blew a 10-point lead in the final 2:17. They had led by 17 in the first half.
“To come up short, it’s a tough one,” he said. “I don’t even know what to say about this one.”
And so, if the Knicks (17-22) are realistically thinking about the playoffs, they first have to find a way to get out of the gutter. They host the Bulls Thursday night at the Garden.
On Wednesday, Derrick Rose was back in the lineup after going AWOL earlier in the week. He was slapped with a “hefty” fine for his no-call, no-show, according to coach Jeff Hornacek. According to published reports, the fine may be as much as $ 200,000 for bolting the team for Chicago and refusing to field calls from Knicks officials while he was off the grid.
Derrick Rose has a good game in his return, but Knicks still take a loss.
If his family was weighing on him, if the crisis that led Rose to go AWOL was still lingering and if the murky circumstances surrounding his hasty departure were still dancing around his skull, Rose’s attention appeared undivided against the 76ers.
He missed his first shot of the game but Rose nailed his next six in a row to lead the Knicks with 12 points in the first quarter. He finished with 25 points, including some big ones down the stretch, while Anthony, coming off his league-high third ejection of the year, dumped in a team-best 28.
It was not enough.
There was not enough defense, not enough of a killer instinct to put away the Sixers when they had them on the ropes, but above all, there was no crucial defensive stop with the game, and quite possibly, the rest of their season on the line.
Carmelo Anthony has a game-high 28 but Knicks fall to the 11-win Sixers.
(Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports)
“We have to change our mentality. It should be defense first, then the offense will come and everything will take care of itself,” Courtney Lee said. “Countless times, they came down in transition, they got wide open shots, they got dunks, they got lay-ups. They did whatever they wanted to do.”
Let that sink in for a minute. The Sixers did whatever they wanted to do.
The Knicks had no answer for big man Joel Embiid, who scored 21 points, including a three and a layup to cut the Knicks’ lead to one with 51 seconds left. Embiid, who sprained his ankle earlier in the game, also pulled down 14 rebounds.
He was a beast. But in a game they so needed to win, the Knicks could not stop little McConnell from scoring.