3 observations after Sixers' winning streak ends despite second-half surge


Every aspect of the Sixers’ unenviable situation was apparent Monday night at Wells Fargo Center. 

Despite a strong second-half comeback, their recent run of shorthanded magic ended along with their six-game winning streak in a 103-96 loss to the Knicks.

Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe were all sidelined due to health and safety protocols. Danny Green returned to the lineup after being out with left hamstring tightness. 

The Knicks' Julius Randle scored 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. 

Six Sixers scored in double figures. Furkan Korkmaz's 19 points were a team-high.

The Sixers will conclude their second back-to-back of the season Tuesday against the Bucks. Here are observations on their first loss of November: 

Trying to make do with what they’ve got 

Instead of Harris, who normally would’ve matched up with Randle, Green took last year’s Most Improved Player.

He allowed a corner three on Randle’s first touch but played solid post defense throughout the game and picked up three blocks and two steals. Georges Niang was next up, and his night didn’t begin well. Niang missed a three and was then beaten down the court by Randle for a transition slam. 

New York recorded 11 fast-break points in the first quarter and took a 28-21 lead. Like it or not, fatigue is a factor for the Sixers. Niang doesn’t have the usual spring in his legs, Tyrese Maxey’s energy isn’t boundless and eight-man rotations can’t be great forever.


Though Niang gave full effort and made a handful of determined, effective second-half drives, he looked like a player who could use a game off. Unfortunately for the Sixers, they can’t hand those out freely these days. 

The Sixers’ second unit for this game was Shake Milton, Paul Reed and Niang. Reed briefly injected a bit of juice in the second quarter, battling for rebounds and dishing to Green for a layup after an offensive board. However, Reed only played five minutes. It would make sense for that number to rise Tuesday, even though Niang continues to knock down clutch shots.

“I don’t know what the balance is," Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said after the game. “I really don’t. You’re so shorthanded. It’s amazing, I usually talk to our coaches. I felt like I was talking to our analytic guys more during the game about minutes and trying to find a way … it was difficult.”

Milton had a rough game offensively, struggling to finish around the paint and committing a crucial fourth-quarter turnover that led to an RJ Barrett three.  

Comeback not quite enough 

Korkmaz was flashy, feeling it and, to put it simply, the Sixers’ best player in the first half. He converted 4 of 7 three-point tries before halftime — one of the misses was a half-court heave — and notched 16 points.

Korkmaz was also smooth and self-assured as a driver. Creating plays off the dribble has never been entirely out of his comfort zone, but he’s steadily improved in that area. And, when he’s shooting well and surely featured in opposing scouting reports, it’s easier to exploit wild closeouts. His pump fake has always been a useful weapon, too. 

Though they trailed by 19 points at one stage in the second quarter, the Sixers were only down 14 at halftime thanks largely to Korkmaz. They didn’t consider the game a lost cause and stormed back into it with a third-quarter surge. Two consecutive threes from Green cut the Knicks’ advantage to 62-57.

After a Knicks timeout, Seth Curry then missed two jumpers that would’ve eaten further into New York’s lead. More often than not, Curry and his teammates nailed those types of pivotal shots during the Sixers’ streak. He got one to go soon after, however, sinking a corner three to make it 67-64 after Andre Drummond and Maxey scrapped to earn the Sixers an extra possession. 

Though the Sixers undoubtedly discovered a collective second wind, they couldn't pick up the requisite stops in the fourth quarter. Randle was tremendous whenever the Knicks needed an answer. 

“Give him credit," Rivers said. “Great kid. He’s worked his butt off, he’s changed the narrative on him, so give him all the credit. I’m very happy for him, just not tonight.”

It also didn't help that the Sixers saw several shots spin tantalizingly around the rim and out as the team had no more good fortune left. 


Drummond all about the boards 

Drummond started his second game as a Sixer and put up 14 points and 25 rebounds. You read that right.

He’s in the spotlight for however long the Sixers are without Embiid. Drummond’s history as a starting center — a two-time All-Star one, in fact — gives the Sixers confidence he can handle these situations.

Embiid is among the NBA’s most irreplaceable players, though; the Sixers will miss his post-up skills, the attention he attracts, and his elite rim protection. As Embiid has emphatically displayed several times over the years, he’s a superior overall player to Drummond.

With that said, the list of players who rebound better than Drummond has never been long. His size, strength, instincts and pride are all very much intact. The Sixers have been a subpar rebounding team early this season and will need Drummond’s best on that front. 

“I just got it like that," Drummond said. “It’s more so just something that I pride myself in. I came into the NBA and it’s something that I wanted to be the best at. And I strive for that, and I am the best at it. It’s nothing new, (nothing) that I haven’t done in my previous years.”

Nerlens Noel exited late in the second quarter and was ruled out with right knee soreness. Drummond’s impact noticeably increased after Noel left as he seemingly grabbed just about every available rebound. Twenty-five rebounds truly feels somewhat routine for him. It just so happened to be the most by a Sixer since Charles Barkley in 1987.