Knicks Rally Late Again, But Fall 115-106 to the 76ers

Alex Wolfe

PHILADELPHIA — When asked if he felt good about his five 3-pointer explosion at the start of the third quarter of Thursday's 115-106 loss to the 76ers felt good, Moe Harkless was pretty blunt.

“I mean, yeah, but it would feel better if we won.”

Unfortunately for Harkless — the unlikely near-hero of the Knicks' loss, the second game of a road back-to-back — he and the Knicks are now on a six-game losing streak heading back to Madison Square Garden.

“We’re figuring it out as a unit," Harkless, who finished with 17 points on 6-9 shooting, said. "Obviously we’ve still got some work to do, though.”

Despite being without both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Sixers proved that they are a team whose third- and even fourth- or fifth-best players are better than anyone on the Knicks on any given night. That's why the Sixers are potential contenders in the Eastern Conference and the Knicks find themselves where they are.

Late in the game, the Knicks closed the deficit to as close as five points with just over two minutes to go, but the Sixers came up with the plays that define why playoff teams are playoff teams. First, Tobias Harris made a tough 3-pointer to extend it to eight points. Then, Shake Milton made another and pushed the lead back to 11. That was about all there was for the Knicks.

Harris and Julius Randle dueled, with Harris scoring 34 points on 14-21 shooting to go with seven rebounds and seven assists, while Randle finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds and five assists on 11-18 shooting for the Knicks.

“I thought Julius was really sharp," Knicks head coach Mike Miller said. "He started out sharp, not only scoring... but just what he was seeing out there. He was really communicating, he was really connecting guys out there. I thought he had a very good game.”

The decision to insert Mitchell Robinson into the starting lineup in the second half helped swing the game somewhat in the Knicks' favor, with a 15-point halftime deficit turning into only a nine-point loss. 

Most importantly, the Knicks looked like a totally different team on defense with Robinson at the center, and he made a real case to be starting going forward after closing the game with the starting five — replacing Bobby Portis, who was chosen to replace Taj Gibson after he was ruled out with back spasms prior to the game.

“I like the way we played the second half, I thought we played a really good half of basketball," Miller said. "We’ve got to make more free throws, we’ve got to get more timely stops when it comes down to it, but I thought we had, guys played well, I thought we were connected. And in particular, the second half, I thought that was about the best we’ve played in a few games.”

Despite the six-game losing streak, not all was lost during the latest two losses for the Knicks — Allonzo Trier reclaimed a rotation spot (shooting 3-5 in the game) and looks like he might be worth playing more to end the season, and Robinson seems to be figuring out his foul woes at long last. 

RJ Barrett was also featured more in this game, racking up 15 points, six rebounds and five assists and getting some time at point guard after Dennis Smith Jr. exhibited concussion-like symptoms in the first half and was pulled from the game.

How Miller and the Knicks use this information to help form decisions down the stretch, however, will be important. Hopefully they've been paying attention and can find the right mix to help the young players develop, because after securing yet another losing season by notching their 42nd loss, that's all there is to play for at this point.