By Justin Thomas
The Philadelphia 76ers came into this Christmas Day matchup 3 games behind the New York Knicks. Not only was this one of the more interesting games on the Christmas Day schedule, but it was also one of the more anticipated matchups of the season.
This is the 1st matchup of the season between two franchises trying to rise from the ashes. For the Sixers, “The Process” has been rather successful in comparison to recent years. They’ve already won 14 games on the year and had been playing good basketball up until the last few weeks. They are 1-7 in their last 8 games. For the Knicks, they are continuing life without Melo, led by “The Unicorn”, Kristaps Porzingis. He’s currently led the Knicks to a 17-15 record, which is good for 8th in the Eastern Conference. This is only the third time two 7-footers, Embiid and Porzingis, averaging over 20 points, are meeting on Christmas.
The 1st half started off pretty back and forth. The Sixers got out to a quick 5-point lead, however, the Knicks countered with a run, taking as much as a 7-point lead in the quarter. The back and forth action continued through the 2nd quarter, as no team could take firm control of the game. The Sixers took a 2-point lead going into the half. Embiid and Porzingis made more of an impact on the defensive end in the first half, collecting 3 blocks each. JJ Reddick led the scoring for the Sixers with 15 points while Kanter collected a double-double to lead the Knicks.
The second half saw some more fast-paced action. The Sixers jumped out to a 7-point lead, but it was quickly countered by a 9-0 Knicks run. Enes Kanter provided the energy for the Knicks, as his action on the boards allowed for second chance opportunities for the Knicks. He had 18 rebounds by the end of the 3rd quarter. For the Sixers, they got a spark from an unlikely source in T.J. McConnell. He scored 7 straight points to end the 3rd quarter.
The 4th quarter was pretty much the same as the 3rd quarter as the Sixers would get out to a lead, but the Knicks would make a run. The teams exchanged buckets and turnovers down the stretch, but a late Embiid from the corner silenced the crowd, and a break away dunk by Ben Simmons put the dagger in the Knicks’ faithful hearts. A couple of Philadelphia turnovers and a Knicks 4-point play made the game interesting late, but a couple of Reddick free throws put the game officially on ice, as the Sixers win 105-98
With the win, the Sixers snap their 5-game losing streak and get to 15-18, while the loss drops the Knicks to 17-16. Embiid led the way for Philly with 25 points, 16 rebounds and 3 assists. Reddick had 24 points and McConnell chipped in 15 points off the bench. For the Knicks, Enes Kanter was a stud, dropping 31 points while pulling down 22 rebounds. Porzingis has 22 and Courtney Lee had 20.
The Sixers needed this win in the worst way to get back on track from their losing ways. Both teams came into the game with injuries to key players including Markelle Fultz and Tim Hardaway Jr., so it’s hard to truly evaluate how they stack up against each other. However, if this game is any indication, then we can be in store for some great matchups over the next few years.
Photo cred: Mike Stobe/Getty Images