Second-quarter troubles plague Sixers in loss to Knicks
J.R. Smith (right) was the Knicks' catalyst when they outscored the Sixers 32-12 in the second quarter Saturday night. (USA Today Images)
Inside the box score
A few statistical nuggets from the Sixers’ 102-92 loss to the New York Knicks on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center:
• The Sixers failed to have a player reach 20-plus points for just the fourth time this season. They also scored just 92 points — the fewest since scoring just 83 against the Clippers on Dec. 9 — and haven’t topped 100 points in three of the last four games.
• A reason why the Sixers are struggling to score? They are shooting poorly from three-point range. Against the Knicks the Sixers went 5 for 19 from three-point range and have averaged just 5.7 threes in the last six games. Before the shooting slump, the Sixers hit nearly nine three-pointers a game at a 37-percent clip.
• Michael Carter-Williams had seven assists and seven rebounds against the Knicks. It was the fifth time he recorded at least seven assists and seven rebounds in a game this season. Going into Saturday’s action, all the other rookies in the NBA combined for just three seven-and-seven games.
• Hawes scored 17 points a night after scoring 16 against the Pistons. He also had five assists and is averaging 4.8 assists over his last five games.
• While Hawes is piling up the assists, Turner has found some difficulty hanging onto the ball. With six turnovers against the Knicks, Turner has 12 turnovers and 10 assists in his last five games.
• Stoudemire scored a game-high 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting, marking the third time he has topped 20-plus points in a game this season. The last time Stoudemire scored 20-plus on at least 80-percent shooting was Feb. 24, 2013 when he scored 22 points on 9-for-10 shooting against the Sixers at Madison Square Garden.
• Noted chucker Carmelo Anthony fired up 21 shots on Saturday night, scoring just 18 points. Not-so-strangely the Knicks are 5-2 in games where Anthony scores fewer than 20 points and 9-17 in games where he scores 20-plus.
Moreover, the Knicks are 3-6 in games when Anthony tops 30 points. They are 9-15 in games when he fires up 20 or more shots.
There are very few coincidences in professional sports. For instance, take the second quarter of the Sixers’ 102-92 loss to the New York Knicks at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night.
After sitting out the last game against the Heat and the entire first quarter on Saturday following a $50,000 fine for untying his opponent’s shoes during two straight games, J.R. Smith might have been looking to prove something.
With the Sixers holding an eight-point lead after the first quarter, Smith entered the game and the Knicks took off on a 32-12 run over 12 minutes.
Worse for the Sixers, they missed nine straight shots over nearly six minutes midway through the second quarter and they shot just 5 for 22 (22.7 percent) during the quarter. Meanwhile, Smith scored 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting with two three-pointers, four assists and a steal (see Instant Replay).
“When you look at the balance of the game, you go right to the second period,” coach Brett Brown said after his team’s fourth straight loss. “They had a 32-point period and from that stage on, you’re just trying to play catch-up.”
It’s no secret what’s going on with the Sixers this season. At 12-25 with four straight losses, the rebuilding phase has entered its most harrowing of growing-pain periods. The Sixers are young, inexperienced, they lack size in the frontcourt and the team’s best shooter is its 7-foot center.
The most flawed part of the Sixers’ roster, though, is the bench. With just 10 players dressed for the game against the Knicks, the Sixers got 20 points from their bench players and 11 of them came from Tony Wroten.
Conversely, the Knicks got 14 points from Smith and a game-high 21 from Amar’e Stoudemire on 8-for-10 shooting. No, it wasn’t like the old Stoudemire somehow found the fountain of youth — or an orthopedist to take some years off his knees — but the 31-year-old center conjured some of his old moves for just a bit on Saturday night.
“When Amar’e starts beasting us in the post,” Brown said, “I get flashbacks from my Western Conference days and [Stoudemire] in his Phoenix days. As a roller, I don’t remember a more dynamic roller in a long time. He used to create a fear in the backside. ... He was very good tonight.”
Still, the Sixers will point to the second quarter as the point where they fell out of sorts and the Knicks took over.
“They hit their run,” said Evan Turner, who scored 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting. “They went on a run and they did a great job of making shots and we really didn’t get our offense rolling.”
Spencer Hawes and James Anderson led the Sixers with 17 points and seven rebounds each. However, none of the Sixers scored more than two points in the second quarter.
“They have a lot of weapons and once guys get going it’s like a snowball effect and we didn’t put out the fires,” Hawes said.
“We weren’t moving the ball. [Brown] reiterates time and time again that when we move the ball, it’s easier to score. I agree with him.”
While the Knicks were welcoming back Smith to the lineup and Stoudemire’s knees from the trainer’s table, the Sixers fell back into some old, bad habits. The team’s offense didn’t move as quickly as needed and the ball got stuck in spots in half-court sets. The players also allowed emotions to reach the surface with Brown and Hawes drawing technical fouls.
In the sullen locker room after the game, Turner complained about the slipperiness of the floor, which may have been the result of the Flyers’ game held earlier Saturday afternoon.
“We had a tough time scoring,” Brown said. “We got stagnant. A lot of times you play teams that are comfortable switching [on defense], you have to do off-the-ball stuff and a lot of movement and running, and we didn’t.”
None of those things cover for the fact that the Sixers haven’t been very good since returning from 4-2 West Coast road trip. Luckily for Brown, there is plenty of time to work on some of the finer points before the next game. The Sixers don’t get back at it until next Wednesday when they host the Charlotte Bobcats.
Bet on next week’s practices being very spirited.