By John N. Mitchell, The Philadelphia Inquirer –
PHILADELPHIA — While the 76ers wait for ailing center Andrew Bynum’s knees to be free of pain, it looks as if fans of the team will be in agony.
After beating the Sixers easily on Sunday, the New York Knicks beat them again — worse, and seemingly with less effort — by 110-88 Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
For the second game in a row, the Knicks shot the ball better from the field, making 46.4 percent of their shots from the field compared to the Sixers, who made 33.7 percent.
But Sixers coach Doug Collins said that, for the moment at least, this is as much about the Knicks’ being a very good team as it is about the Sixers’ trying to find their way.
“We have run into a team the last couple of games that is probably playing as well as anybody in the NBA,” Collins said. “I mean, if Miami is the number-one team, New York just beat them by 20. Right now, they do not have a weakness. They defend. They have size, shoot the three, and they have a great, great player in Carmelo Anthony.
“If they continue to play like this, they are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the East.”
For now, at least, Collins appears to be right. Led by Anthony, who collected 21 points, the Knicks — who like the Sixers are still down an injured all-star (forward Amar’e Stoudemire) — had seven double-figure scorers.
The Sixers, led by Jrue Holiday with 17 points and eight assists, actually led by 8-0 at the start of the game. But the Knicks had an eight-point lead by halftime and control of the game in the third quarter when guard Raymond Felton’s 17-footer gave them a 76-56 lead.
When the Sixers are healthy, Bynum and guard Jason Richardson will give them much more punch. Unfortunately for the Sixers, they were without both on Monday night.
Richardson missed the game with a sprained left ankle he suffered in the first quarter of Sunday’s game at Madison Square Garden. Richardson wore a walking boot for the second day in a row, and Collins said he did not know when he would return.
The Sixers started Kwame Brown at center in place of Lavoy Allen. The game marked the first regular-season appearance for Brown, who has been dealing with a strained calf muscle the last few weeks.
Brown did not last long, though, leaving the game in the third quarter after reinjuring his left calf. In almost 11 minutes, Brown finished with four points and three rebounds.
In the meantime, Collins has the tough task of getting the Sixers on track until the team is healthy and ready to play. It is a delicate situation.
“When a team comes down and they are hitting shots like that, I think guys feel the pressure and they say, ‘OK, I’ve got to bring us back,’ “ said Sixers forward Spencer Hawes, who scored just two points and grabbed seven rebounds. “That can kind of get you into trouble. But it’s early. We’re still trying to get to know each other. We are going to work through this. I know the character of our team.”
Rasheed Wallace, now 38, scored 10 points for the Knicks.
“It’s nice to be here, always,” Wallace said. “I’ve never really left Philly, and I’ve been here a few times, attending Sixers games, since I last played. Everyone here has always shown me love, and I have for them.”