T.J. McConnell nailed a short jump shot at the buzzer to give the Philadelphia 76ers a 98-97 home NBA win over the reeling New York Knicks on Wednesday.
With their 11th win of the season the 76ers surpassed their total from their dismal 10-72 campaign in 2015-16.
McConnell, a second-year guard, connected from the left baseline, capping a rally that saw Philadelphia erase a 13-point deficit in the final 8:17.
Joel Embiid had 21 points and a career-high 14 rebounds for the 76ers, and Ersan Ilyasova contributed 16.
“I thought they made gutsy plays,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said of his team. “I thought they executed stuff that we drew. I thought they didn’t play afraid.”
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 28 points. Derrick Rose, whose unexcused absence from Monday’s loss to New Orleans rocked New York, scored 25, but the performance of the Knicks stars wasn’t enough to stave off a ninth defeat in 10 games.
Rose’s layup with 34.5 seconds remaining gave the Knicks a 97-94 lead, but the 76ers’ Gerald Henderson hit two free throws with 27.8 seconds left.
Henderson also rebounded a missed three-pointer by New York big man Kristaps Porzingis in the waning seconds and raced downcourt.
He passed to Ilyasova, who fired the ball to McConnell, who dribbled, spun away from Anthony and fired as Porzingis flew at him.
The basket dropped as the buzzer sounded.
McConnell finished with eight points and seven assists.
While Philadelphia’s decision not to call a timeout to set up a last-possession play raised eyebrows among some pundits, Brown was satisfied with it.
“We told them, if you feel like you’ve got something, take it,” he said, adding that his young team is gaining confidence with every win.
The Knicks, in contrast, seem a team in some disarray.
They fined Rose an undisclosed amount after he skipped Monday’s home game, later saying only that he had a “family issue” that prompted him to travel to his hometown of Chicago.
Coach Jeff Hornacek said the team determined a fine was punishment enough, and while he thought Rose should have notified the team sooner of his situation, he sounded an understanding note.
“It happens,” Hornacek said. “He knows that he’ll handle it differently, if it ever happens again, but we have to move forward.”
Hornacek said he had no qualms about putting Rose in his starting lineup, and Rose justified that faith. He made six of seven shots en route to 12 first-quarter points.
He scored eight in the fourth quarter as the Knicks tried in vain to hold off the Sixers.
Rose met with Knicks president Phil Jackson and Steve Mills after rejoining the team on Tuesday and said before the game he was glad to be back with his teammates, two days after he said he didn’t get in touch with the team because he needed space.
“I feel fine,” Rose said. “What happened a couple of days ago, that’s in the past.”
Thomas shines as Celtics KO Wizards
It’s a good thing the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards were able to settle their differences Wednesday, so Isaiah Thomas didn’t have to call on his friend Floyd Mayweather.
The former champion boxer was sitting in the front row when NBA teams had words at the final buzzer. But Thomas got the last word in as he scored 20 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter and the Celtics won 117-108.
Fortunately Mayweather wasn’t needed, but he did leave the TD Garden Arena with a souvenir — one of Thomas’ jerseys.
“I just tell guys, ‘Keep it hoop,’” Thomas said. “Nobody’s built like the guy that was in that front row, Floyd Mayweather, so just keep it hoop and then move onto the next one.”
Washington and Boston have had a dislike for each other since November when Wizard guard John Wall was thrown out of the game after a hard foul on Boston’s Marcus Smart.
Smart pulled Bradley Beal down during Wednesday’s game and later committed a hard foul. Smart and Beal exchanged words in front of the Wizards’ bench.
At the end of the game Boston’s Jae Crowder jabbed a finger in Wall’s face, and Wall attempted a half-hearted slap at Crowder but missed and the two were separated by teammates and officials.
“Just some altercation,” said Wall. “We knew there was going to be some trash talking. We knew it was going to be a physical game. That’s all it was. Just a little trash talking and a physical game.”
Smart was led away by team officials.
Thomas’ 20 points for the quarter gave him the league lead in fourth-quarter scoring over Russell Westbrook. He was seven of 12 from the floor in the quarter, three of five from beyond the arc. One was a bomb that led to a high-five from Mayweather.
“He’s been playing as impressive as I’ve seen someone play,” teammate Al Horford said of Thomas.
Wolves halt red-hot Rockets’ win streak
Andrew Wiggins scored a team high 28 points as the Minnesota Timberwolves snapped the Houston Rockets nine-game winning streak Wednesday with a 119-105 NBA victory at the Target Center arena.
Karl-Anthony Towns tallied 23 points and 18 rebounds to post his ninth consecutive double-double and Ricky Rubio had 10 points and tied his career high with 17 assists in the Timberwolves’ second straight win.
“I’m not going to joke with you,” said Canadian Wiggins. “When we got to the fourth quarter with that kind of lead, you can’t let it slide.
“We did a great job of just making sure we kept the lead and stayed disciplined, and did what we needed to do.”
Brandon Rush had 12 points on four three-pointers in his first start for Minnesota and Shabazz Muhammad came off the bench to score 20 points.
“Tonight we learned a lesson and we kept attacking, especially running back on defense,” said Rubio.
The Timberwolves were without third-leading scorer Zach LaVine.
James Harden had 33 points, six rebounds and 12 assists for Houston, which had its league-best winning streak halted. Ryan Anderson added 18 points, but the Rockets shot 41 percent from the floor and 15 of 42 on three-pointers.
“We missed a lot of uncharacteristic shots,” Anderson said. “We normally get stops and it fuels our offense on the other side.
“But they did a great job of being aggressive on us. We didn’t play our game.”
Elsewhere, Russell Westbrook earned his 18th triple-double to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 103-95 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“I just read the game,” Westbrook said. “You have to read it. Makes plays and take what the defense gives you.”
Westbrook tallied 24 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. The 18 triple-doubles is the most by any player since Magic Johnson during the 1981-82 season.
Enes Kanter finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Victor Oladipo added 16 points as the Thunder improved to 24-16.
“That was our main focus coming,” Thunder center Steven Adams said. “Memphis is known to be physical so we just tried to match that and take it to another level.”
Mike Conley led the Grizzlies with 22 points and six assists while Chandler Parsons and Zach Randolph each scored 14 points.
In Portland, Oregon, CJ McCollum scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half, and Allen Crabbe scored 24 points off the bench as the Portland Trail Blazers crushed the Cleveland Cavaliers 102-86 at Moda Center.
McCollum hit the 25-point barrier for the seventh consecutive game, and Crabbe was nine of 11 from the field as the Trail Blazers won a second straight game for the first time since early December.
LeBron James collected 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Kevin Love had 17 points and eight boards for the Cavaliers, who lost for the second straight time and are 2-2 on their six-game road trip.
In Los Angeles, J.J. Redick scored 22 points and the Los Angeles Clippers won their fifth in a row with a 105-96 victory over the Orlando Magic.