NEW YORK (AP) — The Philadelphia 76ers were beating up on everybody until they couldn’t solve the Knicks’ sturdy defense.
Yes, you read that right.
New York turned to defense again to overcome another offensive struggle, snapping the 76ers’ six-game winning streak with an 85-79 victory on Wednesday night.
“Philly is one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now. For us to hold them to 79 points, that’s a big deal,” Carmelo Anthony said.
Anthony had 27 points and the nine rebounds. Amare Stoudemire added 20 points and 10 rebounds, and rookie Josh Harrellson contributed 13 desperately needed points from the bench as the Knicks won their fourth in a row and improved to two games over .500 for the first time this season.
They’ve been doing it with defense, mostly absent from Madison Square Garden in recent years, allowing just 85.5 points per game during their win streak. The Knicks figure if that continues, eventually Mike D’Antoni’s offense will get rolling.
“I’m just excited about the way the defense is playing, because I know coach D’Antoni’s offense, it’s going to get going,” said center Tyson Chandler, who had 13 rebounds and a bloodied nose after taking a third-quarter whack.
Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner each scored 16 points for the 76ers, who were playing from behind nearly the entire way while trying to become the second team this season to win three games in three nights. They had been outscoring opponents by 16 points per game during their 7-2 start, but they trailed by as many as 17 in this one.
“Only excuse that we have is that they had a little bit of time to prepare for us. They took us out of our sets,” forward Elton Brand said. “We’re not going to blame the schedule or anything like that. Every team has a tough schedule this season and you have to give them credit. They outplayed us when it counted.”
Still, the Knicks could never put it away until Anthony’s free throws with 16 seconds left. They have now beaten the 76ers six of the last eight times after losing the previous six. New York visits Memphis on Thursday night.
Jrue Holiday scored 13 points and Thaddeus Young had 12 for the Sixers, who played without starting center Spencer Hawes, who strained his lower back Tuesday night. They shot just 39.5 percent from the field.
“We really missed a guy like Spencer in a game tonight because he’s our best passing guy and we like to play out of the post and do some of that stuff. So I was really just trying to work on the fly,” Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. “I was really proud of our guys tonight. Five games in six nights, three in a row. Battle, battle, battle.”
Anthony shot only 9 of 24 as the Knicks’ offense continued to struggle, but he scored 12 points in the third quarter, providing the Knicks breathing room they would turn out to need when they managed only four baskets in the fourth quarter.
The Knicks got only three points from their bench Monday in a victory over Charlotte, and D’Antoni joked before the game that “we’re going for five tonight.” Harrellson, a second-rounder from Kentucky, bettered that by himself with seven points in the first quarter.
“A lot of people have been talking about our bench not scoring, bottom half of the league with bench points, and I saw that and I just tried to come off with confidence,” Harrellson said.
The Knicks jumped to a 28-15 lead, shooting 57 percent and holding the Sixers to 32 percent. Toney Douglas’ 3-pointer to open the second extended the league to 16, but the Knicks stalled from there, and the lead was down to 45-35 at halftime after Iguodala’s powerful drive and dunk with 35 seconds left.
The lead was trimmed to four during a chippy third quarter before Anthony accounted for all the points in a 7-0 burst to end the period, making a jumper and two free throws before finding Harrellson for a 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds remaining
Collins said before the game he felt like a baseball manager, with a game seemingly every night, and it seemed to take a toll on his team. The 76ers repeatedly left Harrellson plenty of room, showing either a lack of respect for his shot or lack of commitment to getting out and contesting it.
The Sixers eventually showed plenty of fight, with Tony Battie getting a flagrant foul for whacking Chandler in the face in the third quarter and Iguodala and Anthony drawing double technical fouls less than two minutes later when they got tangled after Anthony’s follow shot.
And even when the Sixers seemed out of it down 17 with 9 minutes left, they promptly rattled off 10 in a row, and later got within four in the final minute.
NOTES: The division rivals play only three times this season, here again on March 11 and at Philadelphia on March 21. … Collins said he worked out Chandler three times before the 2001 draft when he was coaching the Washington Wizards. The Wizards took Kwame Brown with the No. 1 pick, while Chandler went next to the Los Angeles Clippers, who traded his rights to Chicago for Brand. … Oklahoma City is the only team to go 3-0 on a back-to-back-to-back.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)