Philly Sports Live

Linsanity to much for Sixers

The once comfortable lead that the 76ers held atop the Atlantic Division continued to disappear Wednesday night as the Sixers fell behind early and never fully recovered in an 82-79 loss to the New York Knicks at the sold-out Wells Fargo Center.

The Sixers (26-21) have lost 12 of their last 18 games and their lead in the Atlantic over the Boston Celtics, who play here Friday, is just one game.

Amar’e Stoudemire led the Knicks (23-24) with 21 points and nine rebounds. Jeremy Lin added 18 points and three assists for the Knicks.

Jrue Holiday led the Sixers with 16 points. Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, and Jodie Meeks all had 13 points for the Sixers. Brand also had eight rebounds and five blocks.

The last time the teams faced each other, the Sixers won easily at Madison Square Garden as they avenged a loss to the Knicks with a powerful second half that saw them outscore the Knicks 55-45 and roll to a 106-94 victory.

The Sixers dug an early hole on Wednesday when they began the game by missing their first 14 shots.

They led briefly in the third quarter but they blew too many opportunities in the fourth quarter to prevent the Knicks from winning their fifth in a row.

Down by 73-70 after Andre Iguodala’s three-point basket with 3 minutes, 34 seconds left in the game, the Sixers didn’t get another field goal until Jrue Holiday’s driving layup with 20 seconds remaining pulled the Sixers to within 78-73.

The Sixers once held a five-game lead over the Celtics in the division and led the Knicks by as many as eight games. But after racing out to a 20-9 start the Sixers have slid back to the pack and played mediocre basketball for an extended period of time.

The bad news for the Sixers as the season winds down is that perhaps the most difficult part of their schedule is still in front of them, particularly at the end of the season when they will play their last five games and nine of their last 11 on the road.