3 observations after Lowry debut, Maxey scores 35, Sixers fall to Knicks

By | February 23, 2024

3 observations after Lowry debut, Maxey scores 35, Sixers fall to Knicks, originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Sixers’ first half in their first game after the NBA All-Star break was exceptionally poor.

Despite a second-half comeback, the Sixers fell to a 110-96 loss to the Knicks on Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center.

They couldn’t seize the opportunity to get past the fourth-seeded Knicks in the Eastern Conference standings.

New York got a 21-point, 12-assist performance from Jalen Brunson. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 22 points off the bench.

All-Star Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey had 35 points, six rebounds and five assists.

The Sixers were backed by Joel Embiid (left knee meniscus procedure), De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine stress reaction) and Robert Covington (left knee bone contusion). New York’s OG Anunoby and Julius Randle were also out.

Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said before the game that Melton “will play” Friday night against the Cavs.

Here are observations on the 32-23 Sixers’ loss to the Knicks:

Batum, Sixers are not at their best asked

Nicolas Batum returned from a nine-game absence on Thursday with a left hamstring strain. He started alongside Maxey, Buddy Hield, Tobias Harris and Paul Reed.

That unit didn’t open the game well. Hield committed a turnover on the first play of the night, leading to a transition layup from Brunson.

Harris Air scored its first three-point attempt. Hield missed a left layup attempt, dropping the Sixers to 1 for 7 from the floor, and Donte DiVincenzo’s long-range jumper on the ensuing fast break put New York up 12-3.

A nurse timeout did not immediately stop the bleeding. The Sixers’ scoring struggles were their biggest problem early on, but the Knicks were superior in almost every area. They hurt the Sixers on the glass, in transition and with solid ball movement when Brunson was double-teamed. The Knicks played their game from the jump and showed much less rust after the All-Star break.

Individually, Batum’s rust was very apparent. He picked up his second, third and fourth fouls in quick succession in the second quarter. The 35-year-old forward was whistled for his fifth personal play with 8:24 left in the third quarter for backcourt contact with Brunson and was outraged by the call. Nurse challenged to no avail.

Batum played just 18 minutes and had zero points, three rebounds and one assist.

The Sixers’ other starting forward also had a tough outing; Harris scored seven points on 3-for-9 shooting, four rebounds and three assists.

Lowry debuts, gets stitched up

The 1,116th game of Kyle Lowry’s NBA career was the six-time All-Star’s first for his hometown team.

Sixers announcer Matt Cord made sure to emphasize that Lowry is “from North Philly” as the 37-year-old checked into the game. The home crowd expressed its appreciation.

Lowry immediately added some cheer by beating the shot clock with a nifty reverse layup.

The Sixers used Lowry both on and off the ball. Considering he hadn’t played since January 21, Lowry’s decision-making and downhill driving both looked quite sharp. He scored 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting, five assists and four rebounds in 25 minutes.

However, Lowry certainly did not sail smoothly through the night. After missing a leaner in the second quarter, he was elbowed in the face by Knicks big man Jericho Sims. Lowry returned to the Sixers’ locker room with a towel pressed to his face.

A Sixers official said at halftime that Lowry had received stitches for a facial laceration. He had a bandage on his forehead when he returned to action in the third quarter.

Improved second half insufficient

The Sixers’ first four players off the bench were Lowry, Kelly Oubre Jr., KJ Martin and Mo Bamba.

However, Nurse expanded his rotation to 11 men late in the second quarter by bringing in Cameron Payne and Ricky Council IV. Nurse opted for a Council-Martin frontcourt over more Bamba minutes. Bamba was one of many Sixers who played a decidedly sub-par first half. Maxey’s 17 points before the break were a bright spot, but the Sixers had little to feel good about through the first two quarters.

The Sixers suffered an embarrassing 36-point loss to the Knicks last month. On Thursday, a trio of Bogdanovic threes put them in a 26-point hole before halftime.

To their credit, the Sixers surged to start the third quarter. Hield hit a three to break a 16-2 run and cut New York’s lead to 71-59.

Although the Sixers couldn’t keep that momentum going all quarter, Maxey drove hard, made hard shots and kept the game competitive. Lowry knocked down a triple, Maxey converted a lefty lay-in and the Sixers defended well with Martin as their small-ball center.

A tightly contested Lowry mid-range jumper with 0.4 seconds left in the third period cut the Sixers’ deficit to 10 points. Lowry was also strong early in the fourth, setting up a Hield three with a pump fake, drive and crisp kick-out pass. The Sixers got the Knicks’ lead by just six points on an Oubre layup.

Ultimately, New York regained its composure and re-established a double-digit lead. Maxey fell short by two three-point attempts, DiVincenzo beat Hield’s backdoor for a layup and the air went out of the Sixers’ comeback balloon.

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