NEW YORK - This certainly wasn't the way the 76ers envisioned riding the momentum of their first win in eight months.
Tuesday, the Wells Fargo Center supplied the kind of electricity not seen there for a professional basketball game since the playoffs of 2012. Much of it had to do with Kobe Bryant starting his farewell tour, but it finished with the Sixers walking off the court winners for the first time since March 25.
Wednesday, before they could even attempt to post their first two-game winning streak, also since last March, rookie center Jahlil Okafor was suspended by the team for two games due to a two fights he was involved in early Thanksgiving morning. If that first win blew up the balloon, Okafor was the pin that popped it.
The deflated and tired Sixers (1-19) found it hard to be energized most of the night at Madison Square Garden, and they got toasted by the New York Knicks, 99-87.
"If the team thinks that it's right that he gets suspended for two games and gets his head together and figure things out, then I guess that's what is best for him," said guard Nik Stauskas. "I know for everyone else it's kind of a next-man-up mentality. We just have to be ready to go out there and play. I think we've been playing great basketball over the past six games, we've just got to kind of find that momentum."
It stayed hidden against the Knicks (9-10). Nerlens Noel filled in at the center spot, which left 6-9 Jerami Grant to deal with 7-2 rookie Kristaps Porzingis. That didn't work out all that well as Porzingis collected 17 points, 10 boards and four blocks. The Sixers' defense was pretty sluggish all evening as the Knicks rarely got difficult looks, and the offense was bland and stagnant, recording just 11 assists on 32 field goals.
Hollis Thompson scored 13 points to lead the Sixers, while JaKarr Sampson had 12 and Richaun Holmes 11. Robert Covington and Isaiah Canaan added 10 each.
Arron Afflalo scored 14 for the Knicks, while Carmelo Anthony and Jerian Grant scored 12 each.
"I think that we ran around. We ran around," said Sixers coach Brett Brown. "In the first half I didn't think we were smart at all with our coverages on doing some different things with Carmelo (Anthony) and especially guarding the post. They had 52 points in the paint for a team that really doesn't run and does take a lot of midrange jump shots. That's a big number.
"You look at (Porzingis) and I'm always fascinated by the international players. When I see somebody like that, you're reminded of a bunch of internationals with that lanky length and then you see him hit a three. And then you see him do some stuff off the dribble and then a back-down move. That's a hell of a good pick. I think that his upside is going to be whatever he wants it to be."
Brown certainly wants his team to be intact, but that's not going to happen as they will be short Okafor for another game. Until then, it's next man up.
"Playing without any one of our teammates is tough," said Canaan. "We're looking forward to getting him back. He'll be fine and we'll be fine, just continue to go out there and do what we're doing. Missing any one of our teammates is tough because we're always together, practice together, play in every game. We never want to be without one."
Tuesday in the Sixers' locker room, guard Tony Wroten talked of returning from his January ACL injury sometime next weekend. Wednesday, in the tiny visitors' locker room at Madison Square Garden, Wroten changed that prediction.
"Next game," he said with a broad smile. "I'm going to be dressed and ready to go the next game."
That would be Saturday against the Denver Nuggets at the Wells Fargo Center.
Before the game, Sixers forward Jerami Grant sat on the scorer's table, talking and laughing with older brother Jerian, a rookie out of Notre Dame. It was the first time the two played against each other as pros. Jerian had the better night as he scored 12 to his younger brother's six.
Nerlens Noel (six points, six rebounds) was poked in the eye and hit in the face in the second half. He continued to play but was in pain after the game. Robert Covington was feeling pain in his hip after getting hit there in the second half.