PHILADELPHIA — The Knicks traveled to the City of Brotherly Love to get beaten by Long Island.
The Knicks turned Tobias Harris into Michael Jordan on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center. The pride of Commack stepped up for the 76ers after the injury absences of stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Harris, a graduate of Half Hollow Hills West, destroyed the Knicks for 23 points in the first half on 10-for-12 shooting. He wound up with 34 points as the depleted Sixers posted a 115-106 triumph.
The Knicks clinched their seventh straight losing season, falling to 17-42 after a sixth consecutive defeat. Mike Miller’s interim record is now 13-24 and he has beaten just two teams that have a winning record.
Moe Harkless, picked up from the Clippers in the Marcus Morris trade, kept the Knicks from getting blown to bits with 15 third-quarter points, hitting 5 of 6 from 3-point land. The Queens native is dealing with culture shock after going from the powerhouse Clippers to the rudderless Knicks.
“We got a lot of work to do,’’ said Harkless, who finished with 17 points. “We got to play the right way, build habits. It’s a process. Not going to happen overnight. We have some good pieces here.”
It’s a good thing incoming president Leon Rose didn’t make the 15-minute journey from his home in Cherry Hill, N.J. Miller again pulled a head-scratcher, starting Bobby Portis at center instead of building block Mitchell Robinson when Taj Gibson became a late scratch with a bad back.
The Knicks fell behind 19-9 in the first six minutes before Robinson came in. After Miller apparently realized his error in starting Portis, Robinson, who finished with six points, eight rebounds and three blocks in 31 minutes, started the second half.
Miller explained he had wanted to keep Robinson in his usual bench role because of the rhythm he has developed.
The interim coach didn’t sound as angry as he did after Wednesday’s loss to the Hornets, but the Knicks still finished their three-game road trip 0-3. They now have 23 games left.
“The big thing we’re looking at it as a staff is how well we’re playing collectively,’’ Miller said. “I thought it was a good sign we played as well as we did in the second half. They weren’t worried about the score. That’s as well as we’ve played in the last few games for 24 minutes.”
Miller bristled at the suggestion he considered losing to the Sixers a moral victory.
“No,’’ he said.
The game plan against Harris was not executed as he hit his first four buckets and outscored the Knicks 12-8 through the opening four minutes. Harris drained a game-sealing 3-pointer with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter after the Knicks rallied to within five. Harris finished 14-for-21 from the field.
Harkless and Harris were teammates with Orlando and played against each other in youth leagues in New York.
“Tobias can always score the ball and tonight he was great all game,’’ Harkless said. “He started off the game really well and he kept it going. We can’t let guys to stop guys like that.’’
Miller said the Knicks could have made it tougher on Harris.
“He played well, [but] there were some coverage and individual things we could’ve been tighter with,’’ Miller said.
In another bad break, the Knicks lost point guard Dennis Smith Jr. in the second quarter with a possible concussion after he got elbowed in the head.
Julius Randle, after being benched in the fourth quarter at Charlotte, bounced back with a 30-point outing on 11-for-18 shooting with 10 rebounds and five assists. Randle now has the dubious distinction of playing on a losing team in each of his six seasons in the NBA.
“Losing is always frustrating,’’ Randle said.
The Sixers, in a bind with the potential long-term absences of their two key cogs, got well for one night against the laughingstock Knicks. James Dolan’s team even became the butt of a joke by presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg during a campaign stop in Oklahoma City.
Bloomberg told Sooners fans, whose squad had just lost to Oklahoma State: “At least you’re not New York Knicks fans. The Knicks are in worse shape than I-35.”