Some might call it a valiant effort, I strongly disagree. Yes the Sixers were outstanding in the fourth quarter as they outscored the visiting New York Knicks by eight, but the despicable first three quarters cannot be excused.
Before the fourth quarter the Sixers (40-39) looked disengaged, uninterested and heartless. They failed to protect the rim, didn’t box out and couldn’t find a rhythm offensively. After a half-time break and down 49-41, the Sixers watched Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups race off to a 17 point lead with an 11-0 run from the pair. That critical Knicks’ stretch — where we came out completely flat — would be prove to be the difference later on despite an impressive fourth quarter from Thaddeus Young.
Forward Thaddeus Young got us steaming behind his 15 points in the fourth quarter as we seized a late single digit lead 88-87. Young was relentless attacking the basket and scored six points in transition. On defense, he was active and aggressive, hustling to grab 50/50 balls that rendered us a chance at a victory. Without his fourth quarter performance, the Knicks would have strolled out of Wells-Fargo Center not needing two critical three-pointers from Carmelo Anthony and Toney Douglas in the closing two minutes to secure the W.
With exception to the fourth quarter, the 7-6 looked like the same ice cold team that lost in Boston the previous night. After last night’s loss, the Sixers will finish the season with an 8-14 record in the second game of back-to-back sets. Also, the 97-92 defeat at home to New York marks our first three-game losing streak since November 26th. The recent Celtics and Knicks losses would seem to indicate dim chances of success in the playoffs.
Thanks to star power in Carmelo Antony and Amar’e Stoudemire — second in the league in combined scoring per game behind Dwayne Wade and LeBron James — the Knicks are a wildcard in this upcoming postseason. Carmelo Anthony went off for 31 points and snatched 11 rebounds. His most critical bucket though, was with 11 seconds left and a measly one point lead as he drained a three-pointer in AI9’s eyeballs to put the game out of reach. Amar’e didn’t have his best outing but still put together 18 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Both received much needed assistance from Toney Douglas — playing late in the fourth due to a Chauncey Billups injury — who scored 10 of the last 13 Knicks’ points.
The two stars, and the X-factor on the night, stole the sixth seed from the Sixers on their home turf. What seemed insurmountable only a week ago, has now become a harsh reality in Philadelphia. Thanks to our Sixers losing three straight and New York Winning five straight, it now seems likely the Sixers will be the seventh seed and will take the better of the Miami-Boston duel for the two-seed.
Some of the losing streak can be blamed on Lou Williams’ injury. Without Lou we miss someone who constantly gets us out of binds. Often Lou-Will bailed us out of a drought or gotten us a big three to quiet the other team’s momentum. Lou can be a ball-hog, and suck on defense, but when we needed buckets, the super-sub came through. His bench buddy Thaddeus Young — 25 points — had to carry the third best scoring bench in the league tonight as ET, Nocioni and Speights only scored eight points combined on 4-15 shooting.
Jodie Meeks, Jrue Holiday and Spencer Hawes struggled as well. Meeks couldn’t throw a rock into the ocean had he tried. He contributed to the teams 2-18 three-point field goals by missing all eight of his attempts. It was the first time in 22 contests that Meeks couldn’t hit a single trey-ball. Jrue Holiday joined the cold club by taking 17 shots and only hitting five. And to round out the crew, Hawes didn’t score a single point (0-5 on FGAs & one embarassing dunk rejection by the 6-6 Bill Walker) but managed to pick up a technical foul for disagreeing on a loose ball foul call.
The cold streak offensively from an array of players was really awakening against the Knicks. In the last three games we’ve scored 87 points per game compared to our normal 99.3. Granted, we played the Bucks and Celtics, two teams that defend exceptionally well. But the Knicks are not a good defensive team, as a matter of fact they suck defensively. The seven games prior to us the Knicks gave up an average of 110.57 points, we fell 18 short of that mark.
There is at least one other positive note outside of Thad — Elton Brand. Brand scored 24 points on 11-16 shooting and collected nine rebounds. Heading into the match, EB was averaging 27 points per game against New York. Without a good defensive post presence the Knicks struggle to slow down the 31-year old vet.
Since the Carmelo trade these teams had not faced each other. For the first matchup, the Knicks capitalized on a pitiful start from a shook Sixers team. Sadly, this is the worst the team has played having dropped six of ten since the abysmal 3-13 start. With the playoffs around the corner and the city finally gaining buzz over the Sixers, were staring into a quick five-game postseason series exit.