- While NBA fans expected Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis to dominate the 76ers-Knicks holiday clash, it was T.J. McConnell and Enes Kanter that ultimately stole the spotlight in Philly's win.
On a sleepy Christmas Day afternoon, we all expected to down a little bit of eggnog, turn on the TV and wake up to Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis taking over a 76ers-Knicks holiday clash. Instead, we got extra servings of Enes Kanter and T.J. McConnell.
As entertaining as it was to observe two of the NBA's best unicorns—Embiid pirouetting on the block and Porzingis knocking down shots at every level—it was Kanter and McConnell who had the most meaningful performances in Philadelphia's 105-98 win over New York on Monday.
In a game largely spent in disarray, McConnell added order. He's a player who's known for his limitations, but few were on display against the Knicks. He scored eight points straight at one point in the second half, found J.J. Redick for a crucial three-pointer and finished with 15 points and four assists.
McConnell left a mark on the game that was only matched by Kanter, whose presence mucked up the contest for most of the first three quarters. With an amazing stat line of 31 points and 23 rebounds, Kanter feasted on the offensive glass and lived at the free-throw line. He joined Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Bob Lanier as the only players to post 30-20 stat lines on Christmas Day.
The Crossover recently documented how dreadful noon Christmas games can be and this one felt like it could follow suit. While the returns of Embiid and Porzingis gave the game an infusion of talent, both teams struggled to find their footing for the first three quarters. One can only endure so many Jarrett Jack dribble drives and Jerryd Bayless missed threes.
Eventually, Porzingis and Emiid got it going, giving the Madison Square Garden crowd a reason to stand. Porzingis scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds, but shot just 6 of 17 from the field. Embiid finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds in both his Christmas and MSG debut. He drew the ire of Knicks fans repeatedly after exchanging words with Kanter and Michael Beasley on separate occasions. His late three-pointer on an out-of-bounds play sealed the 76ers' win and hushed the Knicks faithful.
While Embiid contributed plenty, he also almost cost the 76ers the game in the final moments. Philly gave the ball away four times in the final two minutes, including a turnover that led to a quick triple. But there would be no holiday comeback for the Knicks, as J.J. Redick recorded a final steal and dribbled out the clock in a game that almost put us all back to sleep.