By Harry Allison
Don’t look now but the streaking Sixers are now 11-25, just seven games behind the Washington Wizards for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference!
Joel Embiid sparked a Sixers’ rally — they were down 10 with 2:29 to go — and T. J. McConnell’s shot at the buzzer earned a 98-97 victory over the New York Knicks on last night at the Wells.
Embiid had 21 points and 14 rebounds to help the Sixers rally from a 17-point deficit and win for the fourth time in five games.
“Playoff time, baby,” Embiid said.
The postseason still seems a bit optimistic for the Sixers. But playoff hopes are crashing for the Knicks with their ninth loss in 10 games.
Derrick Rose returned from a one-game hiatus and scored 25 points for the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony had 28.
Rose showed why New York needs him on the court, two days after an unexcused absence. He missed Monday night’s loss to New Orleans when he traveled home to Chicago without informing the team first.
Rose stepped back for a mid-range jumper with 1:24 left that pushed New York’s lead to 95-89, and he cut through the lane for an up-and-under bucket on Embiid that kept the lead at three.
Embiid banked in a 3-pointer and had fans chanting “Trust the Process!” He followed with a layup to make it a one-point game and McConnell, who scored eight points, shot one over Anthony at the horn to send the crowd into a frenzy.
“We should tell ourselves this was unacceptable,” Anthony said.
Rose was absent Monday for what he described as family reasons. He said his trip to Chicago had nothing to do with basketball and he apologized to his teammates and Knicks management, telling them it won’t happen again.
“I only missed one game,” Rose said. “If I felt like I needed more time, I would have talked to the front office. But I feel like everything is all right.”
Rose insisted he simply left for the family matter and not because of any rift with the Knicks.
“The relationship I’m building with Phil (Jackson) and Steve (Mills), I wouldn’t mind asking (for more time off) if I needed it,” Rose said. “I feel fine. What happened a couple of days ago, that’s in the past.”
Embiid is a huge part of Philly’s future.
He missed the final minutes of the first half with a sprained left ankle. Embiid, who missed two seasons recovering from injuries, returned in front of fans who were sipping his favorite Shirley Temple drink. Embiid has long been a fan of the sweet concoction of lemon-lime soda, grenadine and a maraschino cherry, and the Sixers sold the drink as part of a promotional push to get him an All-Star spot.
Embiid got hooked on the drink during his lone season at Kansas.
“One night, I went out with my teammates. I don’t drink alcohol so I wasn’t drinking,” he said. “This girl walked up to me, she was talking to me, she was like, `Why aren’t you drinking?’ I was like, `I just don’t drink, alcohol is nasty.’ She was like, `I might have something for you.’ She went and got a Shirley Temple. Then I was like, `Oh, OK.’ Then I fell in love with it and since then, I’ve been drinking it.”