The Philadelphia 76ers weren’t playing well, and worse than that, Joel Embiid thought he was playing soft.
He and James Harden have the Sixers on too good a roll to stay down too long.
“We just know how to play. We just know what to do,” Embiid said.
Embiid scored 35 points, Harden had 29 points and 13 assists and the 76ers blew by the New York Knicks in the final quarter, extending their winning streak to eight games with a 119-112 victory Sunday.
Georges Niang hit four 3-pointers in Philadelphia’s fourth-quarter surge and finished with 16 points, while De’Anthony Melton added 15 as the 76ers got off to a good start on a four-game road trip after sweeping a seven-game homestand.
“It was one of those games where you’ve just got to stick around,” Harden said. “Like, stick around, stick around and then fourth quarter you give yourself a chance.”
And the 76ers seized it.
After never leading through three, they outscored the Knicks 24-9 to open the fourth, turning a one-point deficit into a 116-102 lead.
Julius Randle scored 35 points and Jalen Brunson had 23 points and 11 assists for the Knicks, who have lost three straight following an eight-game winning streak.
“Again, we’re just not doing enough to win right now and that’s what we have to fix,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said.
Coming off a career-best, 21-assist outing on Friday, Harden played the entire second half, helped by the 76ers turning to a zone defense, and scored 18 points.
Embiid scored 15 in the third quarter and Harden took over the game when Embiid went to the bench, with a four-point play and another 3-pointer that trimmed it to 96-95. He made another 3 in the opening minute of the fourth to tie it at 98, then found Niang for a 3 that gave the 76ers their first lead with 10:37 to play.
Niang hit consecutive 3s midway through the period before Embiid had two baskets and Harden made one and set up the other in an 8-0 flurry that put it away at 116-102.
Embiid, the NBA’s scoring leader, started slowly and the Knicks led 37-25 after one. They were still up eight when Embiid scored with 6.2 seconds remaining, and when Brunson lost the ball as New York tried to get a final shot, Shake Milton scooped it up and banked in a 50-footer at the buzzer that made it 63-60.
76ers: Coach Doc Rivers said PJ Tucker had some kind of pain or injury that was affecting his hand, but he wasn’t worried about it yet. … Rivers said the 76ers brought two busloads of families to the game.
Knicks: The Knicks fell to 23-32 in their league-high 55 Christmas appearance. … The Knicks played their final home game of 2022. They take a three-game road trip to Texas next week that begins with Brunson’s return to Dallas on Tuesday.
Bernard King, who set the Christmas record with 60 points in 1984, was at the game. That stood as the Knicks’ single-game scoring record until a 62-point performance on Jan. 24, 2014, by Carmelo Anthony, the former All-Star who was seated next to him and got a huge ovation when shown on the overhead videoboard in the first quarter.
HARDEN AND HOUSTON
With the 76ers rolling, Harden didn’t want to think about his future. ESPN reported before the game that he is considering a return to Houston, where he played for 8 1/2 seasons, if he decides against a new deal with Philadelphia in the summer.
“I’m here, we’re playing very well and I don’t know where that report came from,” Harden said, “but I’m excited to be here and we’re playing well and we’re continuing to get better.”
76ers: At Washington on Tuesday.
Knicks: At Dallas on Tuesday.