5 Reasons Why the Knicks Got Drubbed by Philly, 109-89

What a disappointing loss. The promise of the 3-1 preseason starts to fade into the rear-view mirror as the Knicks got ripped by the Philadelphia 76’ers at a Coronavirus-empty Madison Square Garden on a Saturday night, to go 0-2 on the season.

Yes Philly is a good team — 43-30 last year during the shortened 73-game season — essentially a 50-win team. Doc Rivers has joined them as their new coach after Brett Brown’s team got swept 4-0 by Boston in the 1st round, so expect them to still be well coached. But on paper the Knicks seem to have as much talent as Philly, and a highly regarded coach now too in Tom Thibodeau.

Here are 5 reasons why the Knicks got beat:

1. Embiid & Howard Used their Girth to Dominate Inside

From the start, Philly’s Joel Embiid dominated inside against the much-skinnier Mitchell Robinson. It was even worse when coach Thibodeau tried Nerlens Noel against Embiid — Noel looked like a shooting guard trying to guard Embiid — Embiid looked so much bigger. And when Embiid came out, Dwight Howard came in and he’s another monster. Howard is not nearly as athletic as he used to be, but still effective in this resurgence to his career. The two of them gave Robinson and Noel fits in the 1st half.

Embiid rocked the Knicks for 27 pts (10-20 shooting), 10 rebounds and Howard added an effective 9 pts (4-7), 6 rebounds in 15 minutes.

Robinson to his credit, stayed out of foul trouble in the first half, and played well in the 2nd half especially — finishing with 11 pts, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 25 minutes. Robinson had no fouls in the 1st quarter and only 2 late in the half when he picked up his 3rd just before the half — and the 3rd foul was a phantom call — it looked like it was on Randle reaching in against Embiid. Robinson finished the night with those 3 fouls — impressive since he was guarding Embiid and Howard all night.

Noel had 4 pts, 4 rebounds in 16 minutes.

2. Barrett Had Horrid Shooting Night

Coming into the game, a Knick fan could trick themselves into thinking the Knicks would do well against Philly because on paper, the Knicks seem to have as much talent, and now NY has an elite coach.

  • Philly has Embiid? The Knicks have Mitchell Robinson.
  • Philly has Ben Simmons? The Knicks have RJ Barrett.
  • Philly has Tobias Harris? The Knicks have Julius Randle.
  • Those are Philly’s 3 stars — after that, it seems the Knicks have more talent. NY even has Philly’s #1 sharpshooter from last year — Alec Burks; Philly has replaced him with Seth Curry — a guy who feels like a former Knick the rumors were so strong the Knicks would pick him up a few years ago, but never did; Curry who has played with 8 clubs in his 7-yr NBA career including much time in the G league.

Well RJ Barrett sucked in this game — he just could not hit a shot. At one point in the first half he was 0-8, and 0-4 from 3. He started rolling to the basket to make shots and was missing them as well — some of that due to either Embiid or Howard; some due to Ben Simmons. Barrett was 1-14 before making his last shot to finish 2-15 for 10 points. Good news: he didn’t allow his poor shooting to effect his overall play — his defense was good as usual and he played with confidence all night.

Ben Simmons had a big difference-maker night: 15 points (5-9), 9 rebounds, 6 assists, and terrific defense on Barrett.

Seth Curry has continued to improve his shooting throughout his career and last year finished 3rd in the league in 3-pt percentage at .452. In this game: 6-8 (3-4 from 3), 2-2 from the free-throw line for 17 points.

3. Randle & Burks Shot Light Out

Julius Randle and Alec Burks played like stars for the Knicks, and kept the Knicks in the game in the 1st half, when the rest of the team could not hit a bucket. Randle finished with 25 pts (11-15), 7 rebounds, 3 assists — scoring efficiently and making great passes to cutting teammates.

Many Knick fans on Twitter were asking thru the night if Burks were this year’s Marcus Morris. Burks can score score score. Inside, outside. The 6’5 Burks had 22 pts on 6-13 (4-6 from 3), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and plays good, scrappy defense.

4. Philly Shot Well; Knicks Didn’t

Barrett hit his first shot just before the half ended, and brought the Knicks to within 50-45. It looked like the Knicks still had a chance to take this game in the 2nd half.

But in the 3rd quarter the Knicks were the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Philly hit their shots; the Knicks didn’t. Tobias Harris (7-14 for 17 pts) was a main culprit, and Danny Green (2-6, 6 pts), and Shake Milton (10 pts) helped.

Kevin Knox didn’t exactly dominate but showed flashes and had a decent game: 3-6 shooting (1-3 from 3) for 7 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists in 29 minutes.

5. Thibodeau’s Offensive Schemes Negate Knicks Point Guard Talents?

One of the Knicks who couldn’t shoot straight (again) was Elfrid Payton, who took much of the brunt for this loss on Twitter — the Knicks don’t have a point guard who can shoot, etc. Wally Szczerbiak and Alan Hahn on the post game mentioned the Knicks don’t have a point guard who can orchestrate and lead the team, forcing Julius Randle to do it.

But watching this game, I couldn’t help but notice Elfrid Payton was not playing the role of penetrating point guard. Thibodeau for the most part seems to be playing a modified Triangle offense where the ball is passed around a lot, including out to the perimeter, where a penetrating point guard like Payton is relegated to receive a pass and shoot a 3 — not his game. After the game, Stefan Bondy of the NY Daily News noted that Payton was the only one still in the Garden, working on his shooting.

There was one particular play in the 2nd quarter — where the ball rotated around the perimeter and went to Payton late in the clock for a 3. And I realized — Payton didn’t really have the ball that possession — he went to the corner to shoot a 3; that’s the Last thing that should be set up as an option, by design.

Are the Knicks already seeing the ill effects of Thibodeau’s reputation for one-dimensional offensive strategies? It left me wanting Mike Miller back — who looked like a breath of fresh air last year, with the Knicks playing good offense and defense — and extremely knowledgeable but also hopeful post-game interviews. He is in Oklahoma City now. Did the Knicks outsmart themselves yet again?

The Boxscore



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