NEW YORK – The New York Knicks seem to be making a habit out of suffering heart-breaking losses lately. Coming off a tough loss in Washington, they fell further from the .500 mark as they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers by a score of 107-97 at Madison Square Garden.
The Sixers came into the game with six consecutive wins and this victory brings them to the even-water mark, at 20-20. The Knicks fell to 15-24, but the final score was not a true indication of how the game went.
New York got off to a good start by going ahead 9-2. Much of that was due to Quentin Richardson’s accuracy from long distance. The guard nailed a 20-foot jumper, which was directly followed by a three-pointer. The lead was narrowed, however, as the Sixers put up six unanswered points. The first two quarters were exactly even in terms of scoring, with the Sixers putting up 26 in both and the Knicks posting 25 in both. Philadelphia forward Andre Iguodala sent the two teams into halftime, and the crowd into a booing frenzy, by draining a long three-pointer as the buzzer sounded. The Sixers went into the half leading 52-50.
The 76ers kept up with the Knicks throughout the first half mainly because of Iguodala who had 20 points in quarters one and two. The two Andre’s killed the Knicks as Iguodala finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds, and guard Andre Miller finished with 27 points.
One positive for the Knicks in this game was the return of first-round draft pick and Italian import Danilo Gallinari. The forward entered the game in the second quarter to a supportive cheer. He turned that cheer into a raucous applause after draining a three-pointer from the top of the arc. Gallinari had not played since October 31 due to a back injury. He showed his exuberance to be back on the court with an emotional fist pump after hitting the three, which was the first field goal of his career.
Knicks fans were thrilled to see Gallinari get back on the hardwood, but head coach Mike D’Antoni knows the 20-year old has a lot to work on. “The biggest thing I’m worried about is to watch his defense because offensively he is going to be really good. He knows how to play once he gets his legs and his confidence, he will be great on the offensive end.”
Gallinari, who played 15 minutes in the game, still said his back is a work in progress. “There’s a little bit of discomfort still. It’s there, but not so much. I’m working with the coaches, I’m getting there.”
There was no masking the youngster’s desire to contribute immediately. However, he realizes it will take time, as he said, “I want to take it slow, but I want to help the team. It’s fun to play in this system. I’m 20, I have time to play.”
It was the third quarter that really hurt the Knicks. The 76ers went on an 8-0 run to open the second half, dulling the Garden’s energy. Too many unwarranted three-pointers and numerous Philadelphia steals left New York scoring just 16 points. In stark contrast, the Knicks played well in the fourth, as both teams scored 31 points.
Gallinari started a late surge that almost resulted in a comeback. New York was down by ten points with 9:12 left in the fourth quarter. Gallinari drained a three-pointer, followed by two consecutive triples from forward Al Harrington, who finished with a team-high 26 points, bringing the deficit to just three with 7:58 left in regulation. Unfortunately, this was the closest the Knicks got for the rest of the game, as the Sixers piled on the points and quieted the crowd.
D’Antoni knows things have to change, as he said, “There’s a lot of things we have to improve on, there’s no doubt. We (have to) keep up the ball movement. We can’t just jack up shots. These are good teams we’re playing against. Philadelphia is playing as well as anybody. We had our opportunities, especially early.”
Knicks center David Lee continued his stellar season by recording his 28th double-double netting 15 points and bringing down 11 rebounds. He now has 25 double-doubles in his last 28 games. He entered play before the game second in the NBA to Orlando’s Dwight Howard (30).
The Knicks play their next game on Martin Luther King Day, January 19, when they host the Chicago Bulls at 1:00 p.m.