In fact, it had all of the elements one could expect in a tussle between these two teams. There was Evan Turner (a career-high 34 points) trying to show out against one of the real "best perimeters" in the game right now in Carmelo Anthony.
There were the requisite ill-advised shots from J.R. Smith (5-for-16... never change, Earl). There was Thaddeus Young doing Thaddeus Young things (19 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals) as the Knicks exerted very little effort to stop him.
There was the sieve-like Sixers' defense that allowed an average-shooting Knicks team to knock down 15 of their 33 three-point attempts. But more importantly, there was a scrappy bunch led by Brett Brown who refused to give up until the final buzzer.
The 76ers (14-28, 11-5 in games in which they've led at the half) won tonight due to the sheer magnitude of their effort, and their domination on the boards (54 total rebounds, 17 offensive) is a mere by-product of the fact that they wanted it more than the Knicks (15-27) tonight.
To be fair, New York could have packed it in after the Sixers sprinted out to an early 21-12 advantage, but Anthony got hot in the second quarter (13 points), and the Knicks made a game of it early in the second half before taking a 90-84 lead with a little over nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.
It wouldn't be an NBA game if a team didn't make a late run, and the Sixers' 12-2 surge midway through the fourth put them up for good. It wasn't that the Knicks didn't want to win tonight - they simply didn't do the important things that good teams do to salt away games (boxing out, closing out on three-point shooters).
It was a contest that was ripe for the taking, and a Sixers team that had dropped its last three games found a gift waiting for it at the corner of 34th Street and 7th Avenue. Meanwhile, the Knicks have now lost five in a row with a surging Charlotte Bobcats team coming to town on Friday.
(Editor's Note: Although true, that sentence felt weird to type).
It's hard to know what to make of Turner's 34 points, given his inconsistency. Michael Carter-Williams poor shooting performance (5-for-18 from the floor) is probably due in part to hitting the rookie wall, but he did manage to dull the pain by pulling down 12 rebounds (six offensive) and handing out seven assists.
The Sixers return home Friday for the start of a three-game set during which they'll face the Toronto Raptors, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns. But while the 76ers are far worse than each of those teams in the standings, the good feelings generated by tonight's win may have a bit of a carryover effect over the next week or so. For what it's worth, the Sixers are now just four games out of the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.
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