The Knicks had a chance to earn their first win since the All-Star break against one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams on Wednesday night, and for most of the first half they seemed well on their way.
But a 16-point Knicks lead disappeared, as James Harden, Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers proved to be too much for Tom Thibodeau’s squad in a 123-108 loss, dropping them to 0-3 since the second half began.
“We didn’t close the second well, and start of the third we got back on our heels,” Thibodeau said. “We sort of recovered after the first two or three minutes, and then the end of the third was problematic for us.
“I thought we played very well in the first half and didn’t play well in the second half, and I’m more concerned about our defense than our offense. We scored plenty of points.”
On the offensive side, RJ Barrett had another big game, scoring 30 points, while Julius Randle added 24 points of his own. The Knicks only committed seven turnovers and looked polished on offense for most of the night, but their defense was another story.
The Sixers shot 52 percent as a team, including 47. 2 percent (17-of-36) from beyond the arc, as they stormed back in the second half and overpowered the Knicks.
“We gave up 68 points in the second half, so I’m concerned about that. We’ve got to find a way to win,” Thibodeau said. “We’re doing some good things but we’re not doing enough of them to win. This is a very good team. We came out of the break playing Miami and Philadelphia twice. It’s a good challenge. It tells us where we are, it tells us what we have to work on, so we’re gonna go from there.
“I’m concerned about everything, but the main thing is our daily improvement, so that’s where the focus should lay, and that’s what we have to do.”
Wednesday’s loss is certainly a tough one for the Knicks to swallow, but they don’t have much time to feel sorry for themselves, as they head out west for their next six games, starting with the NBA’s best team, the Phoenix Suns, on Friday night.
“You’re on the road, we’re shorthanded, we’ve got people out so we’ve got to play hard as heck,” Thibodeau said. “You can’t take any possessions off to give ourselves a chance to win. The margin of error is very small right now. But that’s okay, that’s the challenge of the league. Come out every day, put everything you have into it, get better, that’s what we have to do.”