PHILADELPHIA - The Knicks hit another low point before they even took the floor Friday night.
The 76ers, who in the court of public opinion have been charged with tanking for three straight years, were favored over the Knicks. According to ESPN, it was the first time the 76ers were the favorite since Feb. 7, 2014 (against the Lakers) -- a span of 100 games.
Philadelphia easily covered the spread and beat the Knicks, 97-81, at Wells Fargo Center. The Knicks (14-55) cemented their position as the worst team in the league as they lost to the Timberwolves and 76ers on back-to-back nights.
Nerlens Noel led Philadelphia with 23 points and 14 rebounds. Alexey Shved had 25 points for the Knicks. "I'm proud of the way these guys play," 76ers coach Brett Brown said. "They've played their hearts out. We know that if we don't, we don't have much, and especially here in Philadelphia. We like playing here in our own city and the city demands effort.
"By and large, we bring it and we give it. So the attention where we're actually favorites is interesting, but I don't have much of a reaction."
The Knicks, Timberwolves and 76ers are in the race for the worst record in the NBA. The biggest loser has the best chance to get the first overall pick in June's draft and will select no lower than fourth.
Big men Karl-Anthony Towns of Kentucky and Jahlil Okafor of Duke and guards D'Angelo Russell of Ohio State and Emmanuel Mudiay, who plays in China, are generally considered the top four choices.
With 13 games left, the Knicks are 11/2 games "ahead" of Minnesota and three in front of the 76ers in the race for the worst record. The perception is that all three teams have been tanking this season, but Brown tried to dismiss that idea about the 76ers. "I'm aware of it, but it doesn't come into anything," he said. "If you have a look at what we've done, if you pay attention to me, you're going to understand that we go and we play as hard as we can. I coach as hard as I can and you try and win games. It almost stops and starts there."
Brown has taken notice of Shved's play since he was traded to the Knicks. The Russian guard began the season with Philadelphia, playing 17 games with the 76ers before being traded to Houston.
The Knicks picked up Shved at the trade deadline for Pablo Prigioni, and he has scored in double figures in 13 of 14 games. "He's just playing with a freedom," Brown said. "We saw a skilled, long guard that loves to score and can score in a variety of ways. I think he's found a good home. I think the triangle offense suits him. His skill package suits them and what he can do in that type of offense, I think it's a good fit."