76ers, Knicks combine for 152 points, lowest in NBA since 2016

NEW YORK — Friday night, the Knicks became the first team to hold an opponent under 75 points in more than three years when they beat the Orlando Magic.

Sunday night, the Knicks became the second when they managed to put only 73 points on the board in a 79-73 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The combined 152 points between the two teams was the NBA’s lowest scoring game since January 2016.

“The nature of the game was physical,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It was tough.

“I thought our defense was good, I thought the rebounding was good enough. They made a couple shots late in the 3rd, start of the 4th. But we fought, got back, had a chance at the end. We had a couple turnovers that hurt us there. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

The way this one went for 48 minutes was a brick fest that could’ve gotten the foundation and a few floors of a nearby skyscraper in midtown Manhattan off the ground, as both teams scored 15 points in the first quarter and never managed to get much past second gear offensively at any point on the night. New York finished the game 26-for-80 (32.5%) from the field overall and 9-for-40 (22.5%) from 3. Philadelphia was positively scorching by comparison, shooting 38.8% overall and 30% from 3.

After Orlando and New York became the first teams to score under 75 points since the LA Clippers did Dec. 27, 2020 against the Dallas Mavericks, the 152 points are the fewest combined between two teams since the Denver Nuggets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 78-74 on Jan. 6, 2016. New York also held an opponent under 80 points on back-to-back nights for the first time in 20 years.

In today’s environment, that should have resulted in a pair of victories. Instead, the Knicks fell Sunday, at least in part, because Philadelphia managed to keep star Jalen Brunson in check.

New York’s All-Star guard went 6-for-22 overall and just 1-for-9 from behind the 3-point arc.

“Sent bodies to him, made him see bodies,” Kyle Lowry, whose 3-pointer with just under two minutes to go proved to be the decisive bucket on the night for Philadelphia, said of his fellow Villanova point guard. “He still got some and-1s, he still got some shots made.

“He’s an All-NBA guy, All-Star, a guy who is gonna be a presence and a dominator in this league for a long time.”

Brunson, though, offered a blunt assessment of his performance, and said it had nothing to do with what Philadelphia was doing.

“I was dogs—,” Brunson said. “That’s it.”

Sunday’s low-scoring game was a microcosm of the physical state of both teams, as well as much of their competition across the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. New York is missing its entire starting frontcourt and got Brunson back from a knee issue Friday, and center Isaiah Hartenstein had a large heating pad on his back while standing next to the bench during the second half.

Philadelphia has been dealing with the absence of the league’s reigning MVP, Joel Embiid, for the past several weeks, and has now had All-Star guard Tyrese Maxey out for the past four games due to entering the NBA’s concussion protocol, though the precocious young floor general was with the team Sunday and could return as soon as Tuesday.

With the win, coupled with other results around the East, there is just a two-game gap between the Knicks in fourth and the Miami Heat in eighth, and a one-game difference in the loss column between the Orlando Magic in fifth and Miami.

All of that is why 76ers coach Nick Nurse said that, as his team is trying to survive until it can get its full roster back on the floor again, he’s just looking for basic things for his group to succeed at doing in the meantime.

“I’m mostly trying to evaluate if guys can execute what we’re trying to do,” Nurse said. “Play really hard and execute what we’re trying to do. Make plays, make the right play, simply move the ball, finish, take the shots they’re supposed to take. That’s all we’re asking.”

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