Knicks pull off their biggest comeback of the season, beat 76ers
Published in Basketball
Evan Fournier got an unexpected chance and ran with it.
With RJ Barrett a late scratch because of a non-COVID illness, Fournier, normally out of the rotation, was the backup guard and sent a reminder about why he broke the franchise’s record for 3-pointers just a year ago.
Fournier’s 17 points — including 5 for 8 from beyond the arc — represented his season high, as the Knicks’ defense stifled Philadelphia in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 108-97 victory at MSG.
The Knicks (28-25) recovered from a very early 21-point deficit, with Joel Embiid predictably a handful while scoring 31 points — including 18 from the foul line.
But the Sixers (32-18) sputtered in the fourth quarter, and the Knicks defeated a top Eastern Conference team for the fourth time in the last two weeks (they also beat the Cavs, Heat and Celtics).
Julius Randle scored 24 points and Jalen Brunson added 21. Fournier, a candidate to get moved before this week’s trade deadline, received a nice ovation from the Garden crowd after he fouled out with 1:39 remaining in the fourth quarter. His 24 minutes was his most since October.
Barrett’s absence was interesting timing. Over three games in the last week, he was benched in crunch time and panned by MSG Network analyst Clyde Frazier for his shoddy defense.
“Barrett has the distinction of being the Knicks’ worst defender, folks,” Frazier said on the Saturday night broadcast. “They have all these stats now and he’s the worst guy.”
Thibodeau predictably backed his 22-year-old wing. But then his team put together one of its better defensive efforts.
“Quite honestly I look at those numbers and they’re meaningless to me,” the coach said about Barrett’s defensive rating. “I haven’t seen a good rating system defensively yet and I think I’ve studied it pretty hard. So I don’t buy into it the way some people treat it as gospel.
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