Sixers come up short at buzzer in loss to Knicks

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Sixers come up short at buzzer in loss to Knicks

BOX SCORE

The play was for James Anderson to win the game for the Sixers.

Instead Anderson ended up throwing the ball out of bounds just beyond Thaddeus Young’s reach where he stood wide open for a corner three-pointer.

And with that, the Sixers have come up with nearly every conceivable way to lose during the current losing streak, which reached 23 games with the 93-92 loss to the New York Knicks Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

Frankly, the loss to the Knicks takes the cake.

Not only did the Sixers have a chance to win the game with a three on what should have been their final possession, but they also had a chance to tie it with a desperate three from Michael Carter-Williams when Carmelo Anthony converted on just one of two free throws.

Carter-Williams’ long three-pointer banged off the glass, rattled around the rim and popped out.

Of course it did.

The Sixers also scored 18 of the final 20 points in the game even while shooting a mind-bending 41 three-point attempts. The Sixers inexplicably had a chance to win despite going 10 for 41 from three-point range and 17 for 60 on shots outside of the paint. Their big run in the fourth quarter came after the Sixers were trailing by 17 points with a little more than five minutes to go in the game.

That’s when the Sixers went on a 16-1 run to set up what was supposed to be a final shot for Anderson. Considering it had been since Jan. 29 when the Sixers last won a game, head coach Brett Brown drew up a play for the win.

“I didn’t feel comfortable that we were going to beat them in overtime,” Brown said. “I felt like we needed to look at a three-point shot if it was there. If not, we’ll find something.”

The plan was for Anderson to shoot a three-pointer, which was as bold of an idea as going for the win. After all, Anderson had missed the last week of games because of a bruised quadriceps and had connected on just 1 of 10 three-point attempts.

But when Anderson found himself hounded by the Knicks’ defense, he drove toward the basket where he caught a glimpse of Young creeping toward the corner from the baseline. Anderson also could have found newcomer James Nunnally trailing the play just above the break in the three-point line.

Anderson opted to pass to Young, who had floated slightly out of the corner in order to properly space the floor. When Anderson committed to passing to Young, he says he felt a slap on his arm, fumbled it a bit and fired the ball out of bounds.

“There was an opportunity to drive and kick, but when I got ready to throw Thad the ball I was grabbed and the ball came off funny and he couldn’t get it,” Anderson said.

“It happened. That’s how the game goes.”

Brown said Anderson improvised well and nearly made a great play.

“It ended up being a broken play,” Brown said. “We were trying to get James a look. James didn’t have a look, so he caught it and drove it and that’s good. Thaddeus spaced out. That was sort of improvised and just a big play at a big time.

“It didn’t go our way.”

That should have been it for the Sixers. Actually, it should have been over when they were down by 17 points with 5:15 to go. However, Knicks head coach Mike Woodson pulled out his starters figuring there was no sense in running it up.

Woodson didn’t think he’d have to hustle to get his starters back in the game before it was too late.

“I had to,” Woodson said. “They scared the hell out of me.”

It would have been fitting if the Sixers had pulled it out considering how poorly they shot the ball. Anderson went just 3 for 14 and Young was 6 for 21, including 3 for 9 from three. Tony Wroten improved to 2 for 6 from the foul line a game after going 1 for 6. Only Carter-Williams shot a respectable 10 for 21 on his way to 22 points with a game-high 13 rebounds and nine assists.

And then there are the 41 three-point attempts, which is tied for the most in the NBA this season and shatters the franchise record of 35.

Just think of how the game could have turned out if the Sixers were making shots beyond the chippies …

“That’s what the game gave us,” Brown said of the 41 three-point attempts. “Forty-one is a huge number. I’m sure I’ll go back and say this one was contested and you could have drove that, but I felt like that’s what the game gave us.”

What will the game give the Sixers Saturday night in Chicago? In that one the Sixers will play without Wroten, who suffered a high ankle sprain in the game and will not make the trip. It also seems unlikely Wroten will be able to play Monday in San Antonio or Thursday in Houston.

The Sixers will have to win one of those games to stave off tying the all-time record for consecutive losses at 26.

Sixers-Knicks 5 Things: Sixers hope to remain hot after All-Star break

Sixers-Knicks 5 Things: Sixers hope to remain hot after All-Star break

The Sixers (22-35) finish off a back-to-back set out of the All-Star break when they the New York Knicks (23-35) at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. Starting out strong
So much for having nine days off and players in new roles negatively impacting the team.

The Sixers stormed into the home stretch of the season with a 120-112 win over the Washington Wizards. Seven different players scored in double figures for the Sixers, as they knocked off the Eastern Conference's No. 3 seed.

Perhaps no player had a bigger impact on the game than Richaun Holmes. The backup big man notched the first double-double of his career with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He also added a career-best five blocks.

"I try to approach every game this season the same way, whether everybody was playing or people were hurt," Holmes said. "Prepare like I'm going to play 30 minutes a game. I think having that mindset helped me to stay ready at all times and be aggressive when I had a chance."

2. Young guns
Injuries will prevent another juicy clash between Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis, but there will still be two other young players to keep an eye Saturday night.

Dario Saric and Willy Hernangomez have been two of the most impressive rookies this season, especially since the calendar flipped to February.

Saric has averaged 16.4 points, 7.3 boards and 2.2 assists this month. He's coming off a 20-point, 11-rebound performance against the Wizards for his third straight double-double.

Hernangomez has put up 11.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists a night in February. The center, who was actually drafted 35th overall in 2015 by the Sixers before being traded, recorded 11 points and 10 rebounds in the Knicks' 119-104 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

Saturday's clash could go a long way toward determining Rookie of the Month honors for the East.

3. A Rose is but a Rose
Derrick Rose will never be considered among the league's top assist men. That's simply not his style of play.

When the oft-injured Rose has his game flowing, it starts with scoring, particularly against the Sixers.

In 18 career matchups with the Sixers, Rose has averaged 20.7 points. He's also put up 6.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds in those contests.

Rose scored 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting in the Knicks' first meeting with the Sixers this season back on Jan. 12.

That typically would have been enough to say he won the point guard battle that night, but T.J. McConnell's buzzer-beating jumper stole the show in the Sixers' 98-97 win.

4. Injuries
Embiid (knee), Tiago Splitter (calf), Ben Simmons (foot) Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Joakim Noah (hamstring) is a game-time decision. Porzingis (ankle) is out for the Knicks.

5. This and that
• The Sixers' win over the Knicks in their last meeting snapped a five-game skid in the series.

• The Sixers had 28 assists in their win over the Wizards. They are eighth in the NBA with 23.6 assists a night.

• The Knicks are fourth in the NBA in rebounding with 46.0 boards per game.

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

When Ersan Ilyasova was traded to the Hawks on Wednesday, it became Dario Saric's time to shine.

And shine he did in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In the first game coming off the All-Star break, Saric got the starting nod at power forward. He certainly looked the part, posting 20 points (10 of 19 from the field), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Saric, now the only true four on the roster, was proud of his team's performance against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of veterans who can share the ball and that's how you're supposed to play," Saric said. "For me I'm not surprised if we [beat the third-best team] in the East, but I believe these guys can play very good basketball."

Saric was excellent in the starting role, but his exceptional play dates back before the All-Star break. Including Friday, he's averaged 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists over his last six games. The Sixers are 4-2 in that span.

Head coach Brett Brown is seeing what he expected to see from the Croatian rookie.

"He's a professional basketball player," Brown said. "He has been that for a while. His love of the game, his passion for the game is contagious. It's a thing that we loved maybe more than anything about him when we did the deal with Orlando, knowing however many years ago with the trade with Elfrid Payton and Saric. That was a calculated move."

Saric played almost 33 minutes Friday night. So what did Brown do to give Saric a breather? He sent out Robert Covington.

Covington has played the position most of his life but has spent his entire Sixers career on the wing. In a time of need, he stepped up for a team still adjusting to roster changes.

The 6-foot-8 Covington held his own against the likes of Philly native Markieff Morris. It didn't seem to faze his offensive game, either. Covington scored 25 points on 9 of 14 from the field (5 of 9 from three). He also added 11 rebounds and three assists.

Covington has also been a catalyst for the Sixers during their recent success. He's averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his last six. He's also shot a ridiculous 46 percent from three (19 of 41) in that span.

"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days."

Saric continues to show that he was worth wait while Covington continues to prove that he's a keeper.

They've certainly had different paths. Saric was a lottery pick and regarded as one the top young players in Europe. Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State and spent the 2013-14 primarily with the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Bryan Colangelo has identified Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the team's "transformational players." That's likely true, but every NBA team needs guys like Saric and Covington to complement their stars.

Covington is impressed with the progress of Saric in his rookie season.

"Dario's a very special player," Covington said. "He's able to do so much on the court. Tonight, you saw every aspect of his game. He'll guard, defending, rebounding and making plays on the offensive game. That's what Dario does. Now that he's going to play more in the starting lineup, it's really going to help him."

Saric may be the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Month for February. He's second only to Joel Embiid in double-doubles (seven) and 20-point games (six) among rookies. Whether it's Saric or Embiid, it appears the Rookie of the Year will be a Sixer.

His promotion to the starting lineup and wins against teams like the Wizards should only help Saric's cause.

"Maybe you see [me start consistently], maybe not," Saric said. "The game first time here I try to find myself. I got a couple rebounds, but still I try to find myself with the new role. I've tried to move around, catch the rhythm of the game, that's the most important thing in basketball."

He appeared to find himself just fine Friday night.