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Without Embiid, Harden Sixers’ offense sputters late in loss to Knicks

Missing Joel Embiid and James Harden, the Sixers’ offense struggled down the stretch in a loss to the Knicks Friday night.

New York Knicks v Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers rough start to the season continued when they hosted the New York Knicks Friday night, losing 106-104. They’re now 4-6.

While De’Anthony Melton returned to the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game against the Wizards, Joel Embiid missed his third straight game because of a non-COVID illness and news came down Thursday that James Harden will miss the next month. A hot third quarter had the Sixers poised to pick up the win, but it slipped through their fingers late.

Here are some instant takeaways from the loss

First Quarter

  • A slow start for both teams offensively, as they shot a combined 17 of 46 in the first quarter. It didn’t help the Sixers’ case that De’Anthony Melton sat for most of the quarter after picking up two very quick fouls. Still, a nine-point quarter from Tyrese Maxey was enough to give the Sixers a one-point lead after one and Melton was able to stay out of foul trouble the rest of the night.
  • With the Sixers being as depleted as they currently are, we got an extended look at guys who haven’t played much so far. Paul Reed did not have his best showing in the first, he missed a couple defensive rotations and had a couple ugly turnovers on offense. Furkan Korkmaz got his first real minutes of the season as well, he recorded just one rebound, one assist and went 1 of 2 from downtown.

Second Quarter

  • Reed bounced back immediately the next quarter, starting things off with blocking a Derrick Rose floater. The Sixers opened the second in a zone, and the combo of Reed, Melto, and Matisse Thybulle was suffocating, causing three New York turnovers in the first two minutes of the quarter. The Sixers caused 14 New York turnovers in the first half, Reed himself finished with six (!!) steals on the night.
  • Fans who were clamoring for Tyrese Maxey to be more involved in the offense will certainly get that over the next month without James Harden — and that was certainly the case tonight without Embiid either. Maxey’s 17 first-half points came on 5 of 15 shooting. Meanwhile, for the Knicks, Jalen Brunson got hot in the second with an 11-point quarter, helping the Knicks take a five-point lead into halftime.

Third Quarter

  • In case it wasn’t clear that it was the Tyrese Maxey show in the first half, he made sure of it coming out of halftime. Maxey ripped off 10 points to quickly bring the Sixers and the crowd back into the game.
  • On top of the performance from Maxey, the Sixers were able to get solid contributions from other parts of their starting lineup. Tobias Harris had a very efficient night, going 9-15 for 23 points. De’Anthony Melton continued to do the little things while dishing out nine assists Montrezl Harrell also had a solid night, giving Philly 13 points on 4 of 6 shooting and was able to get to the free throw line six times. Behind Harrell and Maxey, the Sixers outscored the Knicks 30-16 in the third quarter, taking a nine-point lead in the fourth.

Fourth Quarter

  • The Sixers’ offense slowed down a bit after a hot third, but Paul Reed really stepped on the defensive end. Philly needed every part of his two blocks and six steals on the night, and almost singlehandedly he kept the Knicks at arms length in the first half of the fourth.
  • With about five minutes left and the Knicks running Julius Randle at center, the Sixers swapped out Reed for Tucker at center before shortly going back to Harrell. During this time, Philly saw their double-digit lead evaporate, with the Knicks re-taking the lead with just over a minute to go.
  • Doc went double bigs in crunch time, playing both Harrell and Reed while benching Tucker in the last minute of the game, which was certainly an odd choice and it did not pay off. The Sixers failed to stop the Knicks down the stretch, and the spacing was totally thrown off with both guys on the court. It felt like the constant substitutions in the last minute killed any kind of rhythm the offense might have had. Just a bizarre sequence of events at the center position to end this game.
  • The Sixers had multiple opportunities to tie or go in front late, but Maxey and Melton both missed good looks from three in the final minutes. It was Maxey’s first rough shooting night of the season, as he went 10 of 29 from the field and 4 of 13 from three.

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