Sixers 126, Knicks 111: Sixers Build Big Lead, But Have to Hold on Vs. Lowly Knicks

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It looks like a laugher just isn't in the cards any time soon.

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The Sixers got off to a hot shooting start and a big lead, but had to hold on for a 126-111 win over the lowly Knicks at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night.

After going 7-5 during a brutal 12-game stretch, the Sixers narrowly beat a team that has now lost 18 straight.

They go into the All-Star break 37-21 overall.

Here are observations from the win.

• Defense is clearly a work in progress with this team. The Sixers allowed a team that is ranked 26th in the NBA in scoring to put up multiple 30-point quarters. The team just simply allows way too much dribble penetration. They don't play good enough on-the-ball defense, relying too heavily on Joel Embiid to bail them all out. If a team like the Knicks can do this to you, you have clear issues to work out.

• Much was made - rightfully - about Brett Brown's rotation in the loss to the Celtics Tuesday. On Wednesday, Furkan Korkmaz found himself - again, rightfully - on the outside looking in.

It was a different kind of first substitution for Brown, who went with T.J. McConnell, Boban Marjanovic and James Ennis. What's interesting is that Ben Simmons was one of the players subbed out early along with Joel Embiid and JJ Redick. Simmons has routinely come out with the second wave of reserves this season.

Brown has been experimenting with how to properly implement his new players. On Wednesday, he experimented with Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler playing with three reserves. Of course it was the Knicks, but the duo was a combined plus-58.

Ennis and Jonathon Simmons were the backup wings Wednesday and there's no reason to go away from that.

• Harris has been impressive in transition with the Sixers. His ability to pull the ball off the rim and start the break is impressive, but so is the way he fills lane when Simmons is steamrolling down the paint. How many teams feature two players that are over 6-foot-9 that can lead a break?

Harris finished with a new Sixers season-high with 25 points.

• The Sixers' young All-Star duo of Embiid and Simmons had bounce-back performances against a bad team. The Knicks went to a zone at one point which was weirdly effective. Embiid recorded his league-leading 48th double-double this season with 26 points and 14 rebounds. Simmons had 18 points and seven assists but also had five turnovers.

• Jimmy Butler continues to play his best basketball as a Sixer since Harris' arrival. Brown has said that he respects and enjoys the way that Butler is contributing offensively simply by playing the game the right way.

Butler continues to pick his spots to be aggressive wisely, but is also showing off his all-around game. When you see his ability to make plays for others, you can understand why Brown continues to experiment with Butler as a point guard. He went just 4 of 6 for 13 points, but also added eight assists and seven rebounds without turning the ball over.

• What is it about Marjanovic baskets that just makes me laugh? He is the largest player in the NBA and at times gets buckets just for that reason.

What was also impressive was his ability to find a cutting Harris and Butler for two of his three assists. He finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.

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