New York Knicks

T.J. McConnell makes history with splash-worthy night

T.J. McConnell makes history with splash-worthy night

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T.J. McConnell has established his NBA career with the mentality that every game is an audition. So when he became the first Sixer to record a triple-double off the bench, his modesty was no surprise.

“It was an awesome moment,” McConnell said. “But you’ve got to move on from it.”

This was a game McConnell should pause and take some time to enjoy.

The underdrafted-underdog-turned-feel-good NBA story posted 10 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists and six steals in the Sixers’ 108-92 win over the Knicks on Monday (see observations). He became the 25th player in NBA history to record a triple-double off the bench since 1963-64.

The final piece appropriately seemed the most difficult for the 6-foot-2 backup point guard: the rebound, which he grabbed with 1:05 remaining. McConnell led the Sixers on the boards and had the second most in the game, behind only Knicks 6-foot-11 center Enes Kanter (13).

“Joel (Embiid) just wouldn’t let it go,” McConnell said. “After a rebound or an assist, he kept telling me. When I had nine rebounds, he said go get another one. I just went up, someone blocked out the big guy and it kind of just fell into my hands. It was like it was in slow motion.”

The Sixers’ bench went wild as did the fans. The Wells Fargo Center crowd broke into a “T-J” chant. When McConnell entered the locker room, he was doused in water by his teammates and presented with the ceremonial postgame bell-ringing honors. 

“It was amazing,” Embiid said. “I really wanted him to get it. I’m happy for him. I’m glad that he did it. He’s a key piece into our team. Him and Dario (Saric), I think to go where we want to, those two, they’re going to be one of the main reasons.”

McConnell has a knack for knocking down the Knicks. Last January, he drained the game-winner in one of the most memorable moments of the season.

“I’m just trying to play hard,” McConnell said when asked of a possible connection. “You can call it what you want, but just trying to go out there and do my job and help us win any way I can.”

The Sixers will be back to practice on Tuesday. There’s little doubt McConnell will continue his routine of arriving early and staying late. He put on a show in a gutsy performance, but there’s always more work to be done.

“You respect him, you really respect him,” Brett Brown said. “He just plays so hard. He’s a wonderful lesson for so many basketball players in relation to what determination, perseverance, toughness can bring you to. We’ve seen him grow, he continues to get better, and tonight he was incredible.”

Sixers stomp all over trap set by rival

Sixers stomp all over trap set by rival

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T.J. McConnell recorded his first career triple-double to lift the Sixers to a 108-92 win over the Knicks on Monday night. 

The victory, the Sixers’ fourth in a row overall, was also their 10th straight at the Wells Fargo Center. The team remains undefeated in Philadelphia in 2018.

After hitting a game-winner last season vs. New York, McConnell put on another show against the Knicks. He finished with 10 points, 11 assists and, the final piece of the puzzle, 10 rebounds. McConnell became the first Sixer to have a triple-double off the bench. 

The Sixers improved to 29-25 and now sit in seventh in the Eastern Conference. They technically have an eight-game home winning streak because their Jan. 11 loss to the Celtics in London counted as a home game. The Knicks fell to 23-35.

The Sixers will look to wrap up this homestand a perfect 5-0 on Wednesday against the Heat before heading into the All-Star break.

• Justin Anderson suffered a sprained right ankle in the second quarter trying to chase down a Courtney Lee steal. He hit the ground and came up in so much pain that he hobbled off the court into the tunnel on the opposite side from the one that leads to the Sixers’ locker room. X-rays were negative but he did not return to the game. Anderson has been trying to maximize his minutes off the bench. He shot 5 for 7 from the field in the Sixers’ last contest.

• Dario Saric bounced back from a rare rough game on Saturday. Saric had a game-high 24 points on 8 of 12 shooting (4 for 6 from three-point range).

• Saric wasn’t alone with his strong offensive showing. All five Sixers starters scored in double figures: JJ Redick (18 points), Joel Embiid (17 points, six rebounds), Ben Simmons (13 points, six rebounds, six assists, four steals, three blocks) and Robert Covington (13 points, five rebounds).

• Newly-signed Sixer Marco Belinelli suited up in No. 18 just hours after inking his deal. It is likely he will make his debut Wednesday after having time to get better acclimated with the system. Belinelli was pursued by several teams, including the Thunder, Bucks, Raptors and Trail Blazers, after being bought out by the Hawks.

• Covington wasn’t about to share a dunk this time.

• Sixers legend and NBA Hall of Famer, Allen Iverson, rang the ceremonial pregame bell.

• Monday was the Sixers’ Chinese New Year Celebration Game.

Bucks cruise after Knicks suffer devastating injury

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USA Today Images

Bucks cruise after Knicks suffer devastating injury

NEW YORK -- Kristaps Porzingis' dunk wasn't spectacular, certainly nothing like Giannis Antetokounmpo jumping over Tim Hardaway Jr. for a slam.

But the moment he landed, punching the court in pain , the Knicks' playoff hopes had likely crumpled right along with him.

Porzingis tore the ACL in his left knee Tuesday night in the Knicks' 103-89 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Antetokounmpo scored 23 points, jumping over Hardaway for one high-flying slam after Porzingis had dunked over him earlier in the game.

Porzingis crashed to the ground after his dunk with 8:46 left in the second quarter and was taken for an MRI exam that revealed his injury.

"More than a basketball player, he's my brother," Knicks center Enes Kanter said. "I don't want to see anyone going down like that hurting his knee. He's about to be an All-Star. I'm just going to pray for him tonight. He is the most important part of our family."

Eric Bledsoe also had 23 points and Khris Middleton added 20 for the Bucks, who are a season-high seven games over .500 (see full recap).

Raptors inch closer to Celtics after blowout
TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry scored 23 points, C.J. Miles had 20 and the Toronto Raptors routed the Celtics 111-91 on Tuesday night, snapping Boston's four-game winning streak.

DeMar DeRozan added 15 points, Delon Wright had 14 and Fred VanVleet 10 as Toronto won its fifth straight home meeting over Boston, closing to within a game of the conference-leading Celtics.

Kyrie Irving returned after missing the previous three games because of a bruised right quad to score 17 points in 22 minutes.

Reserve forward Marcus Morris also returned for Boston after sitting out two games because of a bruised left hip but the Celtics suffered their second-worst defeat of the season. Boston's only bigger loss was a 23-point defeat at Chicago on Dec. 11.

Terry Rozier scored 18 points, Morris had 12 and Jaylen Brown 11 for the Celtics.

Boston's Al Horford shot 1 for 5 and finished with two points in 24 minutes.

Toronto won its fifth straight home game and improved to 22-4 at Air Canada Centre, the best home mark in the NBA (see full recap).

Magic overcome 21-point deficit vs. reeling Cavs
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Jonathon Simmons scored 22 of his career-high 34 points in the third quarter and the Orlando Magic overcame a 21-point deficit Tuesday night to beat the reeling Cleveland Cavaliers, 116-98.

The Cavaliers scored 43 points in the first quarter, but then went almost 6 1/2 minutes without scoring in the fourth and lost for the 14th time in 21 games. They played the second half without coach Tyronn Lue, who went to the locker room in the second quarter with what the team said was an illness.

The Magic made their first 10 shots of the second half and won consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 8-10.

LeBron James had 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for the Cavaliers, but did not have a rebound or an assist in a foul-plagued second half.

Evan Fournier scored 19 points for the Magic, who broke a nine-game home losing streak against Cleveland (see full recap).