NEW YORK-The Philadelphia 76ers got off to a hot start in their road matchup with the New York Knicks on Sunday. They were moving the ball, they were playing with pace, and they were playing excellent defense as they built a 21-point lead in the second quarter.
Then, things went sideways. The all-bench unit struggled, the starters couldn't find their rhythm when they re-entered the game, and it led to a disappointing 108-97 loss to the Knicks.
The Knicks grabbed six offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter and they got a big lift from Isaiah Hartenstein who hopped off the bench and pulled down 14 rebounds on the night with five coming in the fourth quarter. Three of those were on offensive rebounding.
"They played harder," said coach Doc Rivers. "They got everything. They were the more physical team. They were tougher. Honestly, there's a ball, we're up three I think, the ball is sitting right on the floor under their basket. I think we had four guys around the ball, they had one, he was the only one that went to the floor. So when that stuff happens you shouldn't win the game."
The Sixers were the physical team to begin the game. They were getting the loose balls, the 50/50 balls, the tough rebounds, but it just didn't matter in the long run. New York was the team who was able to come out on top.
"That's one of the things you never know," PJ Tucker added. "That's how the game goes sometimes. I know we can't have a lack of physicality like that and win. We got a pretty easy start and I almost hate when we get those easy starts like that. Everybody's clicking, felt good, defense was clicking, and then we started making a couple subs and everybody thinks is easy, and then the tide kind of changes. I almost would rather prefer to be down which sounds weird, but at least everybody's antennas up and it's a little more vs. being up 20 and suddenly, it's difficult."
The bench unit definitely struggled on the night, although Rivers won't put the blame on that group alone, but one can tell they just didn't have the same intensity.
Once the game swung in New York's favor, the Sixers had a tough time getting it back in their direction.
"It's difficult," Harden added. "This league is so great. When teams aren't shooting the ball well, and for us defensively, we're playing well, we have the momentum. Any team, no matter who you're playing against, if you give a team confidence, individual confidence, and they continue to sustain that confidence, then it's gonna be difficult to slow them down."
Human nature can kick in when a team blows a lead as Philadelphia did on Sunday, but Tucker isn't buying any of that. They had a chance late, but they weren't able to capitalize on it.
"People say that, but to me, it was won on the glass," Tucker stated. "Them getting all the offensive rebounds. I think that was the game. Our woes with scoring in certain periods was all based on getting stops and we couldn't get stops or we could get the stop, but we couldn't get the rebound. So I think that was the game."
Either way, the Knicks punched the Sixers in the mouth and they couldn't respond.
"They made their run," said Embiid. "Obviously, they got stops. We wasn't connected like we was at the beginning of the game. They made shots. They were more aggressive than us. They took advantage of our mistakes."
Story originally appeared on Sixers Wire
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