NEW YORK (AP) — Andrea Bargnani bounced back from an awful, two-point performance in his last game against the Wizards with one of his best this season.
The top pick in the 2006 draft had 25 points, eight rebounds and four of the team’s 14 blocks, Shane Larkin added 15 points and 11 rebounds, and the Knicks snapped a nine-game losing streak with a 101-91 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.
Aside from his offensive performance, the 29-year-old Italian impressed Knicks coach Derek Fisher with his aggressiveness on the defensive end and especially around the rim.
“I think that comes from the fact that nobody is giving up,” Bargnani said. “Despite our record, everybody keeps building on what we’re trying to build. So today it showed on the defensive end.”
Entering Sunday night’s game, Bargnani, who is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, had been averaging 14.4 points in 27 games – 20 as a starter – with All-Star Carmelo Anthony out for the season.
“He’s an extremely talented player. The injuries really limited his ability to reach his ceiling or get closer to it,” Fisher said. “So whatever the futures hold in that regard, I think the way he is finishing this season is not only showing us but showing other teams as well that he is a very capable player still at this point of his career. If he is back that is great.”
Lance Thomas chipped in 14 points for the Knicks, whose last victory was on March 17 over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks’ 15-62 record is the worst in the NBA and with the win, their magic number to clinch the NBA’s basement remains at five with five games to play in the regular season.
If they end up with the worst record, the Knicks could have the best lottery chance – 25 percent – to notch the top pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
In an Easter Sunday matchup between two of NBA’s worst, New York led 81-72 with 10:40 left to go in the fourth quarter, but Hollis Thompson initiated a 10-0 run with 8:33 and Smith capped it with a floater that cut the lead to 85-83 with 6:07 remaining.
After Ish Smith’s layup trimmed the Knicks lead to 91-89 with 2:33 left in the quarter, New York broke the game open with an 8-0 run.
Smith and reserve forward Thompson each had 17 points for the visiting 76ers, who’ve lost six straight.
LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE
With the 76ers and Knicks eliminated from postseason contention for quite a while now, both franchises have used the remaining part of the season to evaluate some players they might keep around. In 24 games since the All-Star break, Philadelphia has trotted out 16 different lineups while the Knicks have countered with 34 this season.
76ers: Host the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.
Knicks: Host the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.
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