The Philadelphia 76ers have dropped consecutive games against teams in the bottom portion of the Eastern Conference standings. They'll try to avoid a third consecutive such setback when they visit the New York Knicks on Saturday for a Madison Square Garden matinee.
After falling 123-106 at Washington, the Sixers dropped a 123-121 decision to Atlanta on Friday night while star center Joel Embiid rested a sore ankle and watched his team suffer just its fourth home loss of the season. "You can start all over the place and whether it's Joel or not Joel, you know we should be better defensively," coach Brett Brown told reporters. "It's where we anchored our program and at the moment, we are poor. Right now, lately, we have been poor." The Knicks followed up a 1-5 road trip with a 121-106 loss to Indiana at home Friday night. They're mired in a 3-18 slump, which includes a 22-point defeat at Philadelphia last month.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, NBCS Philadelphia, MSG (New York)
ABOUT THE 76ERS (27-16): Jimmy Butler scored 30 points Friday but had a turnover that led to Atlanta's decisive basket and then missed a pair of free throws that would've tied it in the closing seconds. Ben Simmons notched his seventh triple-double with 23 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds, and later called out his team for its effort. "I just don't think we're physical enough," Simmons told reporters. "I think defensively, we're not taking it personal enough when guys score on us. It should be a pride thing when somebody scores; you should be frustrated every time."
ABOUT THE KNICKS (10-32): The Pacers scored 96 points through the first three quarters at New York on Friday as the Knicks continued their often futile mission of trying to limit opponents on defense. "Defensive breakdowns," coach David Fizdale told the media of the reason his team fell to 4-13 at home. "For whatever reason ... we're rolling along right there, competing with them step for step, and we took probably three shots where we didn't make one pass, which put a ton of pressure back on our defense." Guard Emmanuel Mudiay scored 21 points to lead New York's seven double-digit scorers and he's averaging 17 points per game at home, compared to 12.8 on the road.
1. Friday began a stretch in which the Knicks play 16 of 21 at home.
2. Sixers PF Mike Muscala had 16 points and tied his season high with four made 3-pointers while starting in place of Embiid on Friday.
3. Philadelphia won six straight meetings, four of them by double digits.
PREDICTION: 76ers 118, Knicks 110 Bet Now
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