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Knicks Silence Sixers as OG's Return Scores a W

The New York Knicks didn't let another standout defensive effort go to waste in a vengeful win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night.

With the Big East Men's Basketball Tournament's annual visit to Madison Square Garden looming, the New York Knicks' Villanova contingent made sure to welcome their former conference in style.

Making up for lost time on the offensive end, the three Wildcats ensured another standout defensive effort ... partly headlined by the long-awaited return of OG Anunoby ... wouldn't go to waste, as they guided New York to a 106-79 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. 

With another stellar defensive effort, the Knicks made some franchise history, as they've allowed less than 80 points in three consecutive games for the first time since November 2000.

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Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart led the way with 20 points each in Tuesday's win while DiVincenzo added 16 to render Sunday's offensive no-show long forgotten and allowed the Knicks (38-27) to split a crucial doubleheader with the Sixers. Headlines, however, will center on the return of Anunoby, who returned to the Knicks' lineup after an 18-game absence created by an elbow injury. 

In 29 minutes of action, Anunoby hit 6-of-11 to pair 14 points with four rebounds. The Knicks were a plus-28 on the scoreboard when Anunoby was on the floor and improved to 13-2 when he dons a New York uniform.

From the get-go, it was apparent that the Knicks would do their utmost to avoid a repeat of Sunday's drab affair: they scored the first six points of the game (including two on a turnaround jumper from Anunoby) and built a double-figure lead before the midway mark of the first thanks to consecutive triples from Anunoby and Brunson. Philadelphia cut the lead to seven in the second but a DiVincenzo three (one of a team-best four alongside Brunson) created a permanent 10-plus-point lead. 

An 18-10 run inflated the Knicks' lead to 18 by intermission before the 76ers went on a 10-2 run of their own to open the third, the last half of that output scored by Tyrese Maxey, who sat out of the Sunday game in concussion protocol. But a 26-10 rush to close the period, one begun by a successful Brunson and-one, permanently shifted momentum and ensured a perpetual cheer from those gathered at MSG.

With Anunoby back and Julius Randle's return potentially looming, some expected Hart's minutes to dwindle. If Tuesday was one of Hart's last stands, he went out in style with his fourth triple-double of the year. Accompanying his team-best point total with 19 rebounds and 10 assists, Hart became just the sixth New Yorker to score at least 20, haul in 15, and dish out 10, joining an illustrious list that also features Patrick Ewing and Walt "Clyde" Frazier.

In other Anunoby-induced roster adjustments, Precious Achuiwa was relegated to the bench but accompanied eight rebounds with 13 points (6-of-8 from the field), one of two reserves in double-figures alongside Miles McBride, who matched him thanks in part to a 3-of-5 tally from three. 

Though Sunday's struggle prevented a sweep, the Knicks secured their first outright season series victory over the 76ers since the 2015-16 season. Combined with two blowout victories at Wells Fargo Center earlier this winter, the Knicks' average margin of victory was over 25 points.

New York and Philadelphia remain engaged in a five-team race for the final three automatic Eastern Conference playoff spots. With their win, the Knicks move a full game ahead of fifth-place Orlando while the Sixers (36-29) fell back to seventh place and the first Play-In Tournament seed thanks to their loss and the Indiana Pacers' interconference road win over Oklahoma City. Maxey scored 17 points in his return from a four-game medical departure while Kelly Oubre once again led the team with 19. 

The Knicks now embark on a four-game road trip induced by the aforementioned arrival of the Big East Tournament, which tips off on Wednesday late afternoon. Part one of the Knicks' Western tour lands on Thursday night against the Portland Trail Blazers (10 p.m. ET, MSG).