It’s a sad day in New York sports when an ‘E-A-G-L-E-S’ chant gains traction in Madison Square Garden.
But that happened twice Sunday as the Knicks were predictably defeated by the Sixers, 108-105, losing for the 17th time in their last 19 games to keep pace with the Bulls for the second-worst record in the league.
Look to the north these days and there are the Patriots alive for another Super Bowl and the Celtics among the favorites in the Eastern Conference. To the south, the Sixers are contenders and the Eagles were trying to repeat as champions.
Here, the teams stink in the winter. All of them. They call it ‘rebuilding,’ but it may as well be hibernating. If it weren’t for the Yankees, New York could just fold up its pro sports department.
On Sunday, invading Philly fans – with their football team playing in the NFC divisional round against the Saints hours later Sunday – performed their trademark chant in the first and second quarters. They weren’t exactly ear-piercing, but the chants were certainly louder than the “We want Zion” attempted by a lone Knicks fan Sunday.
The first time the ‘E-A-G-L-E-S’ chant hit MSG, the Sixers were already up 18 points. Philly led by as many as 24 in the second quarter but the Knicks mounted a spirited comeback, only to lose steam in the fourth quarter and fail on a potential game-tying 3-point heave by Emmanuel Mudiay.
The Knicks (10-33) never led. They played without Tim Hardaway Jr. (hamstring injury) and Enes Kanter (illness). Kevin Knox was impressive with a career-high 31 points and Luke Kornet added 23 off the bench.
Coach David Fizdale was happy with the comeback that came up short. After getting blown out the last two games, it was an improvement.
“Obviously I’m really proud of that effort,” he said. “They didn’t cave in. We’ve been taking some punches lately in some of our losses. But to not have Tim, to not have Enes and for these guys to go out and compete that way, I’m definitely proud of them.”
Philly (28-16) got a combined 82 points from Joel Embiid, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons.
Knox, coming off his best game as a pro, took the right approach. It’s a counter stance to take in the middle of a tank, but, what else is he going to say?
“It’s cool to see, but just got to try and get that win,” he said. “All the points don’t really matter with the ‘L.'”
Kristaps Porzingis has been at every Knicks home game except Sunday’s, sitting, often, first on the bench. Fizdale said the Latvian star texted him that he was feeling ill. The coach joked that Porzingis didn’t have “the burger bug,” a reference to Enes Kanter missing two games after he boasted about eating seven burgers on his ‘cheat day.’ Kanter’s illness is not related to the burgers, by the way.