76ers beat Knicks 79-73, allowing the lowest points total in the NBA this season

NEW YORK (AP) — When a miserable first quarter ended and they had just 15 points, the Philadelphia 76ers felt good about where they were.

The New York Knicks had been every been as bad.

The 76ers kept up the good defense and eventually played just a little better offensively, holding the Knicks to the lowest points total in the NBA this season and winning 79-73 on Sunday night in the ugly opener of a two-game series.

Kelly Oubre Jr. had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the 76ers, who missed their first nine 3-point attempts before making one in the final minute of the first quarter, which ended in a 15-all tie.

“Any defensive coach would take that quarter,” swingman Buddy Hield said. “Offensively, no, but we got great possessions ... and we figured out a way to weather the storm and we made plays when we needed to make plays.”

Less than two months after Joel Embiid scored 70 points by himself to set a 76ers franchise record, it appeared for a while that neither team might get that many Sunday.

Philadelphia led 37-31 at halftime, the lowest-scoring first half in an NBA game since Portland led Detroit 34-31 on March 30, 2019, in a game the Pistons won 99-90.

The scoring picked up in the second half, when the 76ers finally got enough contributions to snap a three-game losing streak. Hield had 16 points and Paul Reed added 13.

Tobias Harris finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds for the 76ers, who had been handled by the Knicks in the two previous meetings this season but can now split the series with a victory when the teams meet again Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

With Embiid still recovering from knee surgery and fellow All-Star Tyrese Maxey missing his fourth straight game because of a concussion, the 76ers are without more than 60 points per game from their lineup.

They didn't need the extra offense on a night the Knicks shot 32.5% from the field and 22.5% from 3-point range. Jalen Brunson led the Knicks with 19 points but shot just 6 for 22.

“We were sending a lot of people at him and he was having to work really hard to get into the paint, and we weren’t letting him get there that often,” 76ers coach Nick Nurse said.

New York also is missing an injured All-Star in Julius Randle, along with fellow frontcourt starters OG Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson. The Knicks turned to their defense to beat Orlando on Friday night, allowing what had been an NBA season-low 74 points.

That lasted just two nights, with the Knicks committing 21 turnovers that led to 17 Philadelphia points.

“Obviously, we didn’t shoot the ball well. Turnovers were bad, I think I had six or seven myself, but you've just got to try to flush it,” Knicks forward Josh Hart said. “We've got them again on Tuesday and try to come out and play better.”

Hield and Reed combined for Philadelphia's first 12 points in the fourth quarter, with Reed's 3-pointer with 3:32 left giving the 76ers the only double-digit lead of the game at 73-63.

There was some shoving in the period. Oubre fouled Donte DiVincenzo, who was trying to get up as Oubre was still standing over him. DiVincenzo wrapped up Oubre's legs and knocked him beyond the baseline, with Isaiah Hartenstein pushing Oubre. Both Knicks and Reed got technical fouls.

Cam Payne's 3-pointer ended Philadelphia's 0-for-9 start began a 10-0 run — though points came so slowly that calling it a run may be inappropriate — which gave Philadelphia a 20-15 edge early in the second.

The Knicks will leave for a four-game trip to the West after Tuesday's game and coach Tom Thibodeau said he expected his injured players to travel with the team, adding the hope was that Anunoby would be cleared to play.