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Monday, March 11, 2024

76ers Beat Knicks 79-73 in Lowest Scoring NBA Game Since 2016

The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the New York Knicks 79-73 on Sunday night despite being without the services of injured All-Stars Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. Embiid has missed the last 18 games while recovering from knee surgery, while Maxey has been out for four games because he is in the concussion protocol. The Knicks played without All-Star Julius Randle, who has missed 18 straight games with a dislocated shoulder. Kelly Oubre Jr. led the 76ers with 18 points while also grabbing 10 rebounds and swiping three steals. Buddy Hield (16 points, seven rebounds) and Paul Reed (13 points, seven rebounds) made important contributions off of the bench, while Tobias Harris added 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Jalen Brunson scored a game-high 19 points and passed for a game-high eight assists, but he shot just 6-22 from the field. Donte DiVincenzo had 15 points on 6-17 field goal shooting, and Bojan Bogdanovic (10 points on 4-8 field goal shooting) was the Knicks' only other double figure scorer.

This is the first NBA game in which both teams scored fewer than 80 points since January 6, 2016. The Knicks shot just 26-80 (.325) from the field and they committed 21 turnovers, eight more than their per game average. The Knicks were particularly bad from three point range (9-40, .225) and--like many teams in the modern NBA--they kept firing away from long range unconcerned about their airballs and bricks; it is puzzling that so many NBA teams do not have a backup plan for games during which they just cannot make three pointers.  

Hubie Brown provided the color commentary for ESPN, and this is the fourth 76ers game for which Brown has provided color commentary since February 23; his most recent telecast was when the 76ers defeated the Mavericks 120-116 on Sunday March 3, and prior to that he did the color commentary when the Bucks topped the 76ers 119-98 on Sunday February 25, and when the 76ers beat the Cavaliers 104-97 on Friday February 23.

During his pregame remarks, Brown noted that Brunson is a three level scorer (three point line, midrange, in the paint), and he said that he is happy that Brunson was rewarded for his hard work by making the All-Star team for the first time. Brown mentioned that Harris is a versatile player and he said that Harris' contributions are critically important while Embiid and Maxey are sidelined. Brown concluded that the pressure is on for both of these teams to maintain their position in the standings by not losing to sub-.500 teams.

When the game began, Brown pointed out that the 76ers had two point guards in the starting lineup--Kyle Lowry and Cameron Payne--to control the tempo and try to get easy fast break scoring opportunities. Brown observed that neither of those point guards checked Brunson; instead, the 76ers assigned that task to the bigger and more athletic Oubre.

Brown singled out Harris' excellent first quarter--six points, five rebounds--as the teams played to a 15-15 tie after the first 12 minutes. The 76ers shot 7-24 (.292) from the field, while the Knicks shot 6-18 (.333) and had more turnovers (seven) than field goals made--the rare team "Harden" (the statistical category denoting a player--or, in this case, a team--accumulating more turnovers than field goals made). Brown said that the 76ers were struggling to score against New York's active, switching defense. He also mentioned throughout the game how much he loves Reed, who he described as a "tough guy."

The Knicks posted another "Harden" in the second quarter, again with seven turnovers and six field goals made, and the 76ers outscored them 22-16 to take a 37-31 halftime lead as the teams combined for the NBA's lowest scoring half this season. Brown provided his usual concise, on point scouting reports on various players, chiding the Knicks that they must jam Hield because Hield is always looking to shoot, and praising Oubre as "a midrange player who wants the contact." Brown said that the 76ers did a terrific job forcing Brunson to take tough, contested shots while also cutting down his passing angles. I love Brunson's attitude and work ethic, and there is no denying how productive he has been during his career, but it must be a little disconcerting for Knicks' fans to see how much he can be bothered by size, which is often the downfall of undersized guards--particularly during postseason play, when the best teams often either have big guards or else will cross-match to nullify a potent but undersized guard.

Beth Mowins on the play by play mentioned that ESPN Analytics predict that both teams will maintain their current position in the standings. Brown quipped, "Does that mean we don't have to play the remaining games?" Brown favored the use of meaningful statistics--including point differential--long before anyone talked about "advanced basketball statistics," but he does not go all-in on the numerical driven nonsense spewed by many analysts and commentators who lack his ability to understand a basketball game by watching with an educated eye.

During the third quarter, ESPN showed a graphic of the top five single season scorers in Knicks' history: Bernard King (32.9 ppg in 1984-85), Richie Guerin (29.5 ppg in 1961-62), Carmelo Anthony (28.7 ppg in 2012-13), Patrick Ewing (28.6 ppg in 1989-90), and Carmelo Anthony (27.4 ppg in 2013-14). Brunson averaged 27.2 ppg this season prior to Sunday night's game. Brown coached the Knicks from 1982-86, so he had a close view of King's most dominant seasons--a 26.3 ppg masterpiece in 1983-84 when the Knicks pushed the eventual NBA champion Boston Celtics to seven games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, followed by a league-leading 32.9 ppg in a 1984-85 season cut short by a devastating knee injury that kept King out of action until 1987. King eventually became the first player to make the All-Star team with a totally reconstructed knee. Brown shared poignant memories of how King injured his knee in 1985 while doing a chasedown block of Reggie Theus in Kansas City. Mowins quietly commented that the worst moments are sometimes more memorable for coaches than the highlight moments. 

As the teams slogged their way through a 42-42 second half, Brown said of Harris, "They need him to get going. They need him to not be bashful." It is often frustrating to watch Harris; he seems to have first option level talent, but despite his size, athletic ability, and shooting skill he tends to drift through games instead of placing his imprint on the action. 

One does not need to be a basketball expert to diagnose New York's problems during this game--too many turnovers combined with wretched three point shooting--but Brown managed to state the obvious without beating viewers over the head with it; we could all see what was happening without someone like "Screamin' A" Smith rupturing our eardrums while confusing decibel levels with IQ points, as if raising the former corresponds with demonstrating a high number of the latter.

Brown does not harp on officiating, but he made an observation that he has made in previous games this season: players have difficulty figuring out how to play when the officiating is inconsistent regarding what is a foul. Coaches and players have criticized officiating forever, but it seems like the overall quality of officiating has declined in recent years. 

This game is not destined to be rebroadcast as an "instant classic," but Brown once again provided a master class in how to analyze a game without screaming, without citing numbers of doubtful relevance or value, and without making it seem like the game is a branding opportunity for the commentators as opposed to entertainment for the viewers.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:01 AM



At Monday, March 11, 2024 6:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Knick fan who wanted Oubre bc we didn’t have a wing (now we have OG), I don’t see how he only got $2m

NBA is weird man. Fournier was getting almost $20m not to play but Oubre gets $2m after averaging 20ppg

At Monday, March 11, 2024 9:34:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


There are many odd contracts in the NBA. This is often a matter of timing, based on what the market is and what the salary cap is when a player becomes a free agent or is traded.

At Thursday, March 14, 2024 11:40:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment is about " Wilt Chamberlain - numbers don't lie"

it’s a good albeit disagreeable write-up here. I do agree that pace adjustment does not consider external factors - such as conditioning, which Wilt is easily the GOAT of - but it’s still a fair way to fundamentally consider the differences in eras in terms of playing speed and shot diet.

The 60’s was inherently a very square era in terms of scoring philosophy. Get as close to the rim as you can and shoot there, as soon in the clock as you can.

When you compare this to the 80’s, which was characterized by isolation scoring and lengthy possessions, it’s very much arguable that a point in that era is inherently more valuable because it’s harder to come by.

The stark difference in 111 FGA by the ‘62 Warriors and 87 FGA by the ‘87 Bulls says enough. That’s 48-72 extra potential points, without even considering and-ones.

The environment Wilt played in shouldn’t discredit him, but his unintentional advantages in this comparison have to be considered.

At Thursday, March 14, 2024 2:43:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


My point is that the entire context--including conditioning, pace, rules changes, and other factors--should be considered. Many advocates of pace-adjusted statistics ignore contextual factors, and treat their numbers as absolute gospel truth.

Just because 50 points at one pace is mathematically equivalent to 35 points (or whatever) at a slower pace does not mean that the player who scored 35 points at the slower pace would (or even could) score 50 points at a faster pace.

At Friday, March 15, 2024 12:20:00 PM, Blogger beep said...

people notoriously mistake correlation for causation... especially statistics fans, which is interesting, because as far as I remember my statistics course, it was very stressed point back then... the difference between them and limits on what data could/couldn't represent

At Friday, March 15, 2024 3:09:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I suspect that most of the "stat gurus" who promote their own proprietary "advanced basketball statistics" not only lack formal training regarding how to use statistics but they also lack a basic understanding of both math and logic (not to mention basketball strategy and tactics).


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