By Michael Bennett
Despite not having Joel Embiid for most of the final three quarters following a scary head injury that sent him to the hospital (above), the Sixers (44-30) rolled to their eighth straight victory and bore down on the Eastern conference’s third seed with a 118-101 thumping of the Knicks.
While the Sixers have risen to the penthouse, the Knicks (27-49) are still in the outhouse and will miss the playoffs for the fifth straight season.
The Sixers now have their most victories since the 2002-2003 season.
“I think we can surprise people [in the playoffs],” coach Brett Brown said. “There isn’t a team in the Eastern Conference I’m intimidated by.”
Certainly not the Knicks, who have six games left — five at home — to audition players for next season. Michael Beasley scored 22 points in another losing cause. Trey Burke, coming off his 42-point explosion Monday night, added 18 in his third straight start at point guard. Enes Kanter, despite injuring his back after a bad fall, scored 17 points with 14 rebounds.
The Knicks kept it close in the first half because of point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who looks more comfortable in his new role off the bench. Mudiay finished with his Knicks-high of 22 points and four assists. He was 8-of-15 from the field, 5-of-6 from the free-throw line.
The Knicks were porous on defense all night. They allowed the Sixers to shoot 55 percent in the first half and Jeff Hornacek’s club shot just 38.3 percent for the game — and 9-of-31 on 3-pointers. One possession saw the Knicks miss three shots, including two 3-pointers. It was the perfect combination of stink.
“Third game in four nights, you got to find more energy to get up for a game like this, but it’s not an excuse,’’ Burke said. “We could’ve came out with more energy collectively in the third quarter. Something we can’t have stretches like we did in the second half. We worked hard to get back in the game and we made three bonehead plays where we don’t get back on defense.’’
Dario Saric destroyed the Knicks for 24 points and Sixers point guard Ben Simmons added 13 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds as Philly notched 22 fast-break points.
The Knicks couldn’t take advantage of Embiid’s injury. He got clocked in a head-to-head collision with rookie Markelle Fultz, who was playing in his second game back after being out five months. Fultz and Embiid collided as the guard drove by the All-Star center, who crumpled to the floor and was woozy as he headed to the locker room. Embiid passed his initial concussion test.
The Knicks, meanwhile, are just a lingering headache soon to be off the stage.