Joel Embiid, 76ers send Knicks reeling to 18th straight loss
NEW YORK — With a big lead and bigger games ahead, Joel Embiid could have opted for safety.
He could have simply let the ball go out of bounds, without putting a scare into people in the 76ers’ front office or along the Madison Square Garden sideline.
That’s not his style.
“I only know one way to play and that’s to play hard and compete,” Embiid said.
The All-Star center had 26 points, 14 rebounds and one flying leap over an award-winning actress into the crowd, and Philadelphia handed the Knicks their 18th straight loss with a 126-111 victory on Wednesday night.
Tobias Harris scored 25 points and Ben Simmons had 18 for the 76ers, who bounced back from their 112-109 home loss to Boston on Tuesday, sending themselves into the All-Star break with a 37-21 record. They went 7-5 during a difficult stretch of their schedule that included the trade with the Clippers to acquire Harris.
“We’re in a good position,” Simmons said.
They had times Wednesday where it appeared they’d win easily, and other moments where the game became much more difficult than necessary against the team with the NBA’s worst record.
Allonzo Trier scored 19 points and fellow rookie Mitchell Robinson had 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Knicks (10-46), who remain mired in the longest losing streak during one season in franchise history.
“All we can do is keep building on the good things we’re doing and try to fix the things that are mistakes for us,” Trier said.
The 76ers made 14 of 18 shots (78 percent) in the first quarter, yet only led 37-33 after the Knicks outworked them on the offensive boards to get up nine more shot attempts. Philadelphia then pushed the lead to 71-55 at halftime.
Philadelphia seemed headed for a rout when it scored eight straight points in the third to open an 88-62 advantage after a free throw by Simmons, but the Knicks put up 36 points in the period and were within single digits going to the fourth.
It was during the third that Embiid gave the 76ers and plenty of people sitting courtside a scare when he tried to chase down a ball going to the sideline. He went flying just over the head of actress Regina King , who won the Best Supporting Actress award at the Golden Globes, and crashed feet-first into the MSG Network statistician working next to broadcaster Mike Breen.
“It’s good that I saved her life I guess, but someone else had to, like, take that,” Embiid said. “I’m sorry about that.”
Philadelphia coach Brett Brown’s thoughts on Embiid’s dive?
“Just like I think our owners and our fans back home were thinking,” he said. “You respect his aggression, and his passion, but you don’t want that. I say that out of love and care. It’s stuff you hope to avoid.”
The statistician somehow stayed in the game.
“I didn’t see him but I know he’s going to feel it tomorrow,” Simmons said.
The Knicks had their moments, highlighted by rookie Kevin Knox’s powerful slam over Simmons . But they don’t have the firepower to beat a team like the 76ers, or anyone else in the league over the last 2 ½ months.
76ers: Philadelphia has won the last eight meetings. … Jimmy Butler had 13 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. … Embiid had his 10th straight double-double.
Knicks: Dennis Smith Jr. had 13 points and DeAndre Jordan, who came with him from Dallas in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, scored 12.
Coach David Fizdale said he was happy for Enes Kanter, who announced Wednesday he was signing with the Portland Trail Blazers. The Knicks waived their former starting center last Thursday after they weren’t able to find a trade for him.
“Seriously, that’s a great deal for him,” Fizdale said. “He landed with a playoff team.”
Embiid was fined $25,000 for his public criticism of the officiating, which included profanity, following Tuesday’s loss.
“I knew what I was getting into,” Embiid said. “I haven’t seen the Last 2-Minute Report but I did get fouled and everybody knew that. I felt like it changed the outcome of the game. The game could have been tied and I was in the heat of the moment.”
The report did say Al Horford should have been called for fouling Embiid with 35 seconds remaining.
76ers: Host Miami on Feb. 21.
Knicks: Visit Atlanta on Thursday.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.