The onetime king of Long Island basketball ruled Madison Square Garden for the night.
OK, fine. Tobias Harris ruled it for only a few pivotal seconds, but it sure did count.
The former Half Hollow Hills West star sent a message home on Saturday night, sinking an uncontested right-wing three-pointer with 27.7 seconds left to give the 76ers a two-point lead in their 90-87 win over the Knicks.
It was the Knicks’ eighth loss in nine games and a stark reminder that it’s going to take more than an interim coach to solve their ills. They fell to 11-32.
The loss was further compounded by a play a few seconds after Harris’ three. Marcus Morris tried to find Julius Randle in isolation and Randle had the ball skitter out of bounds for his fifth turnover of the game.
“We were getting on the cleared side,” interim coach Mike Miller said. “We had plenty of time and our spacing just broke down a little bit there.”
Three seconds before Harris’ basket and coming out of a timeout, Morris hit a pull-up jumper to give the Knicks a one-point lead, their first since the first three minutes of the game.
“That’s one we should have had,” Morris said. “We just broke down at the end. We didn’t get a shot . . . This one is a tough one to swallow.”
Maybe, but it also was a somewhat fitting end to a game that was thoroughly frustrating from the start.
The 76ers led consistently, but the Knicks managed to tie it eight times and never seemed more than a field goal away. They held the 76ers to 38 second-half points but scored only 41 after halftime themselves.
“I think we’re heading in the right direction,” Morris said. “In the second half, we emphasized turning up our physicality, and that’s what we did. We played well. That’s a good team over there.”
On Harris’ go-ahead three-pointer — a quick catch-and-release — the Knicks had him covered, Miller said, but got bumped off and went into rotation mode.
“We were just late getting there,” he said. “He just ended up getting a little too much space.”
Harris said the play “kind of broke down when I caught it. I saw the three-point line and the defender back. We had to get one up quick, so I went and shot it.”
Ben Simmons had 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds for the 76ers (28-16). Josh Richardson scored 18 points, Furkan Korkmaz added 17 off the bench and Harris had 15 points and eight rebounds.
Morris had 20 points for the Knicks. Randle added 14 points and 12 rebounds and Reggie Bullock also had 14 points.
Before Harris’ three-pointer, the 76ers went 1-for-8 in their closing cold spell, which started with 6:45 left in the game. The Knicks went 1-for-5 between 5:16 and 1:48.
Somewhat surprisingly, the 76ers — one of the worst three-point-shooting teams in the league — shot 40% from outside the arc in the first half (6-for-15). They finished 10-for-32.
It was, at least, one small glimmer of hope for a team that has had little to smile about in recent days. Morris and Randle, in particular, struggled while playing together earlier in the season. But the two highest-paid players on the team have found their rhythm under Miller.
“I think they play well together,” Miller said before the game. “I think as we start the game, to have that scoring punch out there and have everybody going. One of the things that we’ve looked at is trying to find ways where we’re not subbing and they’re not sitting out together . . . Sometimes the game allows us to do that. Sometimes we can’t. We’ve explored different things.
“We have a lot of versatility [because Randle can play the five and Morris the four]. We have a lot of combinations that can play well together.”