The Philadelphia 76ers seem to be getting nowhere in winning games lately. As such, all the Sixers appear to be capable of doing is getting close to win, especially against the elite. Therefore, after the way the Sixers laid down against the Miami Heat on Feb. 23, putting up a bigger fight against the New York Knicks on Feb. 24 was a big improvement.
Of course, that wasn’t enough to give the Sixers an actual win, as the Knicks held on by 99-93. Yet it could have been worse, given that New York was up by as many as 17 points in the first half and was ahead by 12 at halftime. Miami had a comfortable halftime lead over Philadelphia 24 hours earlier and kept building it up, yet the Sixers made the Knicks break a sweat.
New York actually did more to let Philadelphia hang around, however, especially when Carmelo Anthony committed a flagrant foul on Spencer Hawes in the third quarter. It energized the Sixers for a little bit, but they only got as close as nine points in the third and needed a big rally to get within six at the very end.
After their lack of a fight against the Heat, showing a pulse in Madison Square Garden was a baby step for the Sixers. Yet despite how the Knicks lead the Atlantic Division, they are a far easier opponent than the Heat these days. Miami now has an 11-game winning streak and is cruising towards the East’s top seed, while New York finally snapped a four-game losing streak by beating Philadelphia.
The Sixers caught the Knicks at a vulnerable time, but they just weren’t vulnerable enough. Fortunately for New York, it built such a cushion in the first half that it is still on track for the playoffs, although the Atlantic Division and the East’s second seed are now up for grabs.
On the other hand, Philadelphia had almost no margin for error left after the All-Star break. Regardless, it has lost its first three games of the second half and is reduced to looking for moral victories, since real ones are too much to ask for now.