The 76ers finally showed up in the first quarter.
They led by 14 points after one quarter en route to defeating the New York Knicks, 117-91, Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
The victory improved the Sixers to 15-8 and marked their sixth victory in seven games. They also improved to 11-1 at home, matching the Golden State Warriors for the most home wins in the NBA. Meanwhile, the weary Knicks dropped to 7-16. They were playing their third game in four nights.
The Sixers took advantage of that in a contest they never trailed. That was a big difference from their last two matchups — both against losing teams.
They battled back from two 20-point, first-half deficits to beat the Brooklyn Nets, 127-125, on the road on Sunday. Two nights before that, they trailed by 14 in the first quarter in a 121-112 home loss to the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers.
"Obviously getting out to a big lead is important, but we were able to maintain that lead a whole game," JJ Redick said. "That's just as important for us.
"We had some double-digit leads in the third and fourth quarter that we relinquished."
And Redick's right.
The Sixers have had a knack for either getting off to slow starts or losing sizable leads. But that didn't happen Wednesday.
On this night, they led by 41-27 after shooting 69.6 percent from the field and making 5 of 9 three-pointers in the first quarter. Redick had the hot hand early on, scoring 14 of his 24 points in the first quarter. The Sixers shooting guard made all six of his shot attempts — including two three pointers — in the opening quarter.
While the Sixers were off and running, the Knicks struggled from the field. They missed several wide-open attempts, shooting 34.8 percent overall and 20.7 percent on three-pointers for the game.
The Sixers went on to open up a 31-point lead twice late in the fourth quarter. They tied a floor record of 34 assists in a game.
Forward Ben Simmons said staying aggressive on defense had a lot to do with Sixers keeping a big lead.
"Obviously we tried to rebound the ball at a higher rate because of their elite rebounders on their team," Simmons said. "I think we did a pretty good job of boxing out, pushing the ball and getting to our offense."
Knicks center Enes Kanter was the player Simmons was talking about. Kanter entered the game tied for ninth in the league at 12 rebounds per game. He finished with six and 17 points.
Joel Embiid got the best of his counterpart, recording his league-best 21st double-double of the season with 26 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in 30 minutes, 16 seconds of action. He and Redick left the game with 8:30 remaining.
The other starters, Simmons (14 points, eight rebounds, seven assists), Wilson Chandler (eight points, six rebounds), and Jimmy Butler (seven points, four rebounds) sat out the fourth quarter.
Mario Hezonja also had 17 points for the Knicks.
Smith working out
Zhaire Smith is back in the gym.
The Sixers rookie guard has been working out with one of the team's assistant coaches at night for a week. He has been doing a lot of light movement and shooting drills in a gradual introduction to playing again.
Smith's rookie season has been derailed by a broken foot and an allergic reaction to food.
He was expected to return from an acute Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal in the left foot in December. However, he probably won't see any NBA action this season after his allergic reaction to food with sesame oil or sesame seeds in it in September. The illness was worse than originally thought, according to a source, who said Smith had a peanut allergy.
"My expectation at some point would be to integrate a lot with the G-League," Sixers coach Brett Brown said of Smith playing for the Delaware Blue Coats. "Let him practice and play. Let him grow in that environment instead of kind of being stuck and being a prisoner to this NBA thing, where we don't really practice that much. Nor will he play."