When the Knicks faced the 76ers in January, OG Anunoby’s primary defensive assignment was All-Star guard Tyrese Maxey.

After missing 18 games with an elbow injury, Anunoby returned to the lineup Tuesday night and was charged mostly with guarding power forward Tobias Harris.

That defensive versatility certainly was missed by the Knicks during Anunoby’s absence, and they posted a middling 8-10 record while he was sidelined.

OG Anunoby defends Tobias during the Knicks' 106-79 win over the 76ers.

OG Anunoby defends Tobias during the Knicks’ 106-79 win over the 76ers. AP

It also is why Tom Thibodeau grinned while declining to say whether he considered Anunoby or fellow multi-positional defender Josh Hart the power forward or the small forward during Tuesday’s 106-79 win over the Sixers at the Garden.

“I say that tongue in cheek because that’s the beauty of Josh and OG,” Thibodeau said after the game. “Both can play all three wing positions. They can play 2, 3 and 4, and they’re interchangeable, and sometimes, you can go with the matchup.

“Like, ‘OK, we can take advantage of this this way.’ And I like that, I like that versatility. … We can do a lot of switching with those guys.”

Tuesday’s victory represented a strong response by the Knicks after they scored just 73 points in Sunday’s loss to the Sixers, the lowest scoring output in the NBA this season.

But they’ve now allowed 74, 79 and 79 points over their past three games, marking the first time they’ve held three straight opponents under 80 since 2000 — when Thibodeau was an assistant coach under Jeff Van Gundy and Jalen Brunson’s father, current assistant Rick Brunson, was a guard on the roster.

“The thing is, 20 years ago that really was the style of play. So to be able to do it in today’s game, it’s a credit to the team,” Thibodeau said. “You have to be tied together and you have to be working together and you have to be able to count on each other.

OG Anunoby grabs a loose ball during the Knicks' blowout win over the 76ers.

OG Anunoby grabs a loose ball during the Knicks’ blowout win over the 76ers. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“And I think that’s the way our team is playing, and we’ve had to use that most of the year when you’re down players.”

Starting big men Julius Randle (shoulder) and Mitchell Robinson (ankle) also have been unavailable, of course, and they will be out again when the Knicks open a four-game western swing Thursday night in Portland.

Still, Anunoby’s return was an important step if the Knicks (38-27) are to maintain or improve upon their fourth-place standing in the Eastern Conference over their final 17 regular-season games.

In going 13-2 this season with Anunoby in the lineup, the Knicks have posted a net rating of 16.7 in those games, which represents their point differential per 100 possessions.

OG Anunoby (left) and Josh Hart look to block Cameron Payne's shot during the Knicks' win over the 76ers.

OG Anunoby (left) and Josh Hart look to block Cameron Payne’s shot during the Knicks’ win over the 76ers. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

For the entire season, only the East-leading Celtics (11.3) have a net rating above 10.0.

Maxey sat out Sunday’s game with a concussion and reigning MVP Joel Embiid missed both with a knee injury, but the Knicks held the Sixers to 79 points in each game on 38.1 percent shooting from the field and 27.0 (17-for-63) from 3-point range.

“You’re not replacing Julius, you’re not replacing Jalen and OG, those guys, but we can do it with our team,” Thibodeau said. “We can do it with our team defense, we can do it with our team rebounding. We can do it by taking care of the ball. That puts you in position to win regardless who you have, who you’re playing, where you’re playing.

“So if we hang on to those three things, some nights we don’t shoot it as well as others, I think that holds true for every team in the league. But you’ll be in position to win if you do those three things.”

Hart, who notched his fourth triple-double of the season, called Anunoby “a juggernaut” defensively and someone who “helps this team go.”

Anunoby returned the compliment to Hart, who has averaged 16.1 points, 12.0 rebounds and 5.9 assists over 42.8 minutes per game over his last 10 appearances.

“He’s just relentless. He’s just a great player. He impacts both sides of the floor,” said Anunoby, who replaced Precious Achiuwa in the starting lineup. “He makes shots, he passes, he rebounds. He does everything. He’s an amazing player. He takes [defensive] matchups, too.”


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