Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and guard James Harden slap...

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and guard James Harden slap five against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Midway through the fourth quarter Sunday afternoon, the Knicks were battling the Philadelphia 76ers bucket for bucket — well, mostly free throw for free throw — and trailing by one point. And then, as has happened so many times, it all faded away.

At Madison Square Garden and for a national television audience, the latest example of the Knicks’ struggles was put on display for all to see. The 76ers turned to their newly formed tandem of stars, James Harden and Joel Embiid, and the Knicks were unable to find an answer. The result was a 19-4 closing run that gave Philadelphia a 125-109 win.

If there was any question of how the 76ers would piece together a newly constructed roster, it has taken little time to answer it: Easily.

With the two best players on the floor, both able to draw fouls almost at will, the 76ers methodically wore down the Knicks. If the familiarity is far from complete and the game plans are basically "give Harden the ball and get out of the way,’’ when you have two MVP-caliber players in the lineup, it will be more than enough on most nights.

Embiid piled up 37 points against an assortment of Knicks defenders, shooting 23-for-27 from the free-throw line and fouling out Mitchell Robinson and Jericho Sims in the process.

Harden, in just his second game with Philadelphia after being acquired in a trade with the Nets at the deadline, had 29 points, 16 assists, 10 rebounds and five steals.

Tyrese Maxey added 21 points for the 76ers, who were 39-for-44 from the free-throw line to the Knicks’ 22-for-35.

Evan Fournier and RJ Barrett scored 24 points each for the Knicks. Immanuel Quickley had 21 off the bench and Julius Randle added 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

None of it was enough to stop the Knicks (25-36) from another loss, their fifth straight and 15th in the last 18 games.

"I think it’s just the execution part," Fournier said. "I think the last time I was sitting here, I said exactly the same thing. It keeps happening, and that’s what’s so frustrating. We just need to execute better. In the fourth quarter, the intensity is different.

"When you look at, for example, Philly, they just ran a simple pick-and-roll with James and Embiid. Obviously, they are two great players, so it’s a tough cover. But I think our offense down the stretch . . . as players, we need to think a little more what we want to achieve when we run something.

Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden reacts during the first half...

Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden reacts during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

"To start the game, first quarter and second quarter, you’re trying to get into a rhythm, you move the ball, you go from one side to the other because everybody has to touch it, everyone has to feel good.

"The fourth quarter is different. That’s the time to really execute our best stuff and go to our best players. Yeah, man, it’s frustrating, because we are not far at all. We should be winning these games. it’s frustrating. Very frustrating."

"We just got to figure it out," Robinson said. "We just have to figure it out. We’ve been talking. If something is working for us, go back to the same thing. But every time we have changes. We got to find out what works for us and stick to it."

Early in the game, Harden led a fast break and dribbled into the lane, drawing defenders to him and dropping the ball off between his legs for Embiid rushing in behind him for an uncontested dunk.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Randle misfired on an open three-pointer from the corner. Harden pushed the ball upcourt, finding Embiid streaking to the rim for a thunderous dunk to serve as an exclamation point.

The Knicks trailed by 10 midway through the third quarter, but with Quickley catching fire, they closed within 91-89 entering the fourth period.

Quickley gave the Knicks a 98-95 lead with a three-point play and a driving layup and Obi Toppin’s layup brought the Knicks within 106-105 with 7:01 left, but Embiid scored the next six points. Tobias Harris then scored eight of his 12 points as the 76ers took their largest lead of the night.