PHILADELPHIA—Julius Randle scored 31 points, including eight straight during a key fourth-quarter stretch, to lead the New York Knicks to a 103–96 victory over the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night.
Philadelphia was without four-time All-Star Joel Embiid and three others due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, which are for players who have tested positive for COVID-19 or been in close contact with someone who’s tested positive.
RJ Barrett added 15 points for the Knicks, who won their second in the last five.
“He was a monster all the way around, the way the game started, the energy he was playing with, he set the tone defensively,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said of Randle, who also had 12 rebounds. “When he plays like that, it makes us a different team.”
Andre Drummond started in place of Embiid, and had 14 points and 25 rebounds. Furkan Korkmaz added 19 points for Philadelphia, which had a six-game win streak snapped.
The Knicks led by as many as 19 points in the first half and looked on their way to a blowout, but Philadelphia used a 25–14 third quarter to pull within 72–69 entering the fourth. The 76ers got within one on multiple occasions in the final period, the last on a 3-pointer by Georges Niang with 5:01 left that made it 89–88.
Then Randle took over. He converted a driving layup and then a pair of 3-pointers, the second giving the Knicks a 97–91 lead with 2:54 left.
“Just took what the game gave me,” Randle said. “Those are the moments I want.”
New York took a comfortable 100–91 lead on Kemba Walker’s three-point play with 2:19 left.
“The game could’ve gotten away from us in the first half and it didn’t,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “We hung in there.”
ESPN, citing sources, reported earlier Monday that Embiid tested positive for COVID-19. Neither the 76ers nor Rivers would confirm that. Rivers said before Monday’s game that Embiid was “struggling.”
“It’s not going great. He’s struggling with it. Similar to Tobias (Harris),” Rivers said. “It clearly is a concern.”
Embiid is the fourth member of the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers sidelined during to COVID-19 protocols, joining Harris,
Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe. Rivers said an unnamed staff member was also out.
Embiid, who missed his second game of the season Monday, is averaging 21.4 points and 9.4 rebounds. Embiid also sat Nov. 1 for rest.
In addition to Drummond and Korkmaz, Philadelphia’s makeshift starting five included Danny Green, Seth Curry and Tyrese Maxey.
Knicks: Walker returned to the lineup after missing Sunday’s 126–109 home loss to Cleveland due to rest. He had eight points. Mitchell Robinson (hip) didn’t play. Nerlens Noel (knee soreness) left with 4:16 left in the second quarter and didn’t return. He had six points.
76ers: Harris sat for the fifth straight game, Thybulle for the second in a row and Joe missed his third consecutive contest. Green (left hamstring) returned after missing three straight games and scored eight points. Ben Simmons (personal reasons) still hasn’t played this season.
Knicks: It was the first win in Philadelphia in nine games, the last victory coming April 8, 2016. The Knicks have won both games against the 76ers this season (112–99 on Oct. 26) and will meet twice more, on Feb. 27 in New York and March 2 in Philadelphia.
76ers: Retired U.S. women’s soccer star Carli Lloyd rang the ceremonial Liberty Bell prior to the game. Lloyd is from nearby Delran, New Jersey.
Knicks: Host defending NBA champion Milwaukee on Wednesday night.
76ers: Host Milwaukee on Tuesday night.
By Aaron Bracy