McConnell records triple-double as Sixers win 4th straight

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 108, New York 92 – Box Score

As much fun as it should be to watch Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Dario Saric over All-Star weekend, the upcoming break couldn’t be coming at a worse time for the Sixers. Philadelphia is firing on all cylinders right now, taking care of the Kristaps Porzingis-less Knicks Monday night to win their 4th straight game and 10th straight at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Knicks hung around for a while thanks to a lot of tough jumpers by Michael Beasley (22 points) and Courtney Lee (18 points), actually tying things up at 73 in the third quarter. There would be no second half collapse in this one, however, as the Sixers immediately answered with a 10-2 run to retake control, thanks in large part to the efforts of Robert Covington (13 points). In the span of four possessions, Covington hit a three, slammed home a dunk for an and-one, and as a grand finale, posterized Michael Beasley with a dunk so fierce that Joel Embiid picked up a technical for taunting on his teammate’s behalf.

Having reasserted themselves, the Sixers closed the door defensively, allowing just 13 New York points in the fourth quarter. 13 was a key number for the Sixers on the evening, as all five Philadelphia starters scored 13 or more points. Dario Saric (24 points), J.J. Redick (18 points) were lights-out from behind the arc, combining to make 7 of their 12 three-point attempts. Joel Embiid had 17 points in just 24 minutes. Thanks to the strong team effort, he was able to sit out the back half of the fourth quarter, a nice option to have considering how banged up he’s been lately.

Rounding out the starting five, Ben Simmons was an absolute force on both ends with 13 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. It’s unbelievable how active Simmons is defensively, he has great innate instincts that didn’t show up in college. There had to have been something to the idea that he was bored at that level. Offensively, I don’t know how in the world he finds some of the angles he does to set up his teammates in tight spaces.

I saved the best for last, because the catalyst behind the Sixers putting this game away was T.J. McConnell, who grabbed his first career triple-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, and a whopping 6 steals. Facing a Knicks team he once nailed a game-winner against, the most spirited player on the team had the intensity meter cranked up to his jersey number 12. McConnell was a bothersome pest all game long, doing his usual routine of picking up full court and denying Knicks point guards (Emmanuel Mudiay especially) the ability to start the offense.

With the triple-double in sight, McConnell definitely looked for his shot on two straight possessions. After T.J. made a jumper on the second try to get to 10 points, he then grabbed his 10th rebound and the Wells Fargo Center erupted. The entire arena was chanting, “T.J., T.J. T.J,” and Joel Embiid and Covington doused McConnell with water during the postgame interview. Justin Anderson, who had rolled his ankle earlier in the game and headed to the locker room, was at the front of the tunnel in street clothes and an ankle wrap to congratulate him.

The entire team was pumped for McConnell to reach that milestone. They are playing well, playing for each other, and going out there each night with the idea that they’re consistently the best team on the court. Honestly, the way things are rolling for them right now, there isn’t a team in the league they couldn’t go toe to toe with.

The Sixers have one more game Wednesday night against Miami before the All-Star break. With a win in that one, they would have sole possession of 7th place in the East.

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