Saturday’s Sixers-Knicks game looked vaguely familiar to their matchup on Jan. 11. In a game mostly controlled by New York, Philadelphia managed to overcome another double-digit lead to push the Knicks to the brink. But there would be no T.J. McConnell buzzer beater this time around. Instead, a Carmelo Anthony jumper gave New York the 110-109, saving them from another embarrassing loss to the Sixers.
Here are three observations from what turned out to be a very exciting game.
1. Dario Saric continues to carry the Sixers
No Joel Embiid, no Ben Simmons, and now no Nerlens Noel, but thank goodness for Dario Saric. He’s the only reason to continue watching this team right now as we wait for Embiid to return on March 3rd. He finished the game with 19 points on 7-17 shooting, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists in 40 minutes of action. According to the Sixers’ broadcast tonight, he’s the first rookie in Sixers history to post four straight games of at least 18 points and 11 rebounds in four consecutive games. The remarkable part of this is he continues to be utterly dreadful from beyond the arc. He went 1-5 from three, and he’s made just five of his last 29 attempts. Perhaps that makes what Saric is doing so remarkable. In a league where perimeter shooting is so vital, the Croatian sensation is putting up numbers despite being so poor in that area.
He’s doing most of his scoring around the rim, getting out on the break and finishing layups, as well as displaying a really nice jump hook (which is becoming one of his go to moves). Here’s his shot chart on the evening:
Saric is also continuing to put his passing abilities on display. He’s had at least 3 assists in four of the last five games, and it’s undoubtedly the best attribute to his game. His best pass of the game came in the waining moments of the game, when he found T.J. McConnell open on the perimeter for a three despite being double teamed on the baseline. He may not win Rookie of the Year (Embiid deserves it even if he doesn’t play another minute), but he’s making a serious case with his play lately. Saric is living up to expectations, and then some.
Jahlil Okafor plays really, really well
After a quiet showing from Okafor against the Wizards on Friday, he went for a season-high 28 points and 10 rebounds against the Knicks. Okafor went to battle with Willy Hernangomez for most of the opening frame, and used his size and solid footwork to take care of business around the rim. He also showed a lot of efforts attacking the glass, which was nice to see considering Hernangomez has had his fair share of double-doubles this season.
The second half initially wasn’t nearly as kind to Okafor. He was stuck at eight rebounds until the 4:23 mark of the fourth quarter, but turned it on in crunch time. He converted a putback to cut the lead to eight, then drew a foul on another offensive rebound before knocking down both free throws. With 51 seconds left, he converted a jump hook to put the Sixers up one (despite being grabbed by O’Quinn), and then managed to score on a horribly broken play to give them a 109-108 lead. It was nice to see him jumpstart the team’s wild comeback, and hopefully he can continue to play well the rest of the season so the Sixers can eventually find him a new home.
Carmelo Anthony redeems himself
Anthony’s inability to score for most of the fourth quarter on Saturday looked vaguely familiar to the Knicks’ buzzer-beater loss to the Sixers in January. He had just one point in the first 10 minutes and 56 seconds of the game’s final frame, but refused to let another game against Philadelphia slip through the cracks. He answered McConnell’s three pointer with an 18-foot jumper to reestablish the Knicks lead, and on the team’s final possession, Anthony laced a step back jumper over the outstretched arm of Robert Covington to give the Knicks the win. Overall, it was a fantastic game for Anthony. He went for 37 points on 25 shots, 21 of which came in the first half. Most of his early points came against Dario Saric, who really struggled to guard against his mid-range game. Frankly, when Anthony is on like that, few players are able to prevent those jumpers from falling.
The Sixers are back in action against the Golden State Warriors on Monday.