Knicks Feel Right At Home In 4-2 Series Win Over 76ers In Philadelphia: ‘It’s A Place We’re All Comfortable At’

Jalen Brunson scores 41 points and dishes out 12 assists to help the Knicks defeat the 76ers in Philadelphia, 118-115; New York has now won the series 4-2, moving onto the conference semifinals two consecutive years in a row, which hasn’t been done by the franchise since their run from 1992-2000.

Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks, NBA
(Mary Altaffer/AP)

To point out, Brunson may be the closest example to the meaning of a “one-man team” in the playoffs, as he now has a league-leading postseason usage rate of 36.7%, and has put up almost 30 shots per game in the first-round series vs. the 76ers. Throughout six games, Brunson averaged 35.5 points (42.9% FG), 9.0 assists, and 4.5 rebounds. After starting off the series with two shaky shooting games, making just 16-of-55 shot attempts (29% FG) in Games 1+2, in the last four games of the series, the first-time All-Star averaged 41.8 points. With this in mind, the last time a player put up 39+ points in four consecutive playoff games was Michael Jordan during the 1993 NBA finals vs. the Phoenix Suns. To note, Jordan averaged 45.5 points during a four-game stretch (Game 2 through Game 5), as he led the Chicago Bulls to a championship.

The 76ers went through much effort to ensure that the home crowd was mostly 76ers fans, as the team’s ownership bought over 2,000 tickets ahead of Game 6 to give out to Philly fans. However, at the very beginning of the game, there wasn’t much to cheer for as the Knicks jumped out to a 33-11 early lead in the first quarter. That is to say, the 76ers fought back in the second quarter, led by Buddy Hield‘s five 2Q three-pointers, which was a surprise considering he only had two points on 1-for-7 shooting in the series before tonight. As a result, the home team was able to rally all the way back, after going on a a 43-18 run, they took the lead before halftime, 54-51.

With the score tied going into the fourth quarter, the Knicks made big plays down the stretch to secure the win. Brunson, who scored 25 second-half points, converted the last two free throws of the game with seven seconds left, as fans cheering “Let’s go Knicks” could be heard on the TV broadcast. In view of this, 76ers superstar center Joel Embiid already complained after the Game 4 loss that there were too many away team fans in the arena, but important to realize it’s hard to keep New Yorkers away, being that Madison Square Garden is less than 100 miles away from Wells Fargo Center. Therefore, it is understandable why there was a projected 15% of the crowd being Knicks fans traveling to Philadelphia, even with the 76ers’ owners buying their own tickets.

“We feel we have the best fans in the world,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau stated. “They travel. They go with us wherever we go. It’s great to play in that atmosphere amongst the fans.”

As a matter of fact, three of the Knicks’ best players, Brunson, Josh Hart, and Donte DiVincenzo, felt right at home, as they all three went to school right up the block at Villanova University, which is located in the suburbs of Philadelphia. In the close-out win, Brunson’s running mates contributed on both ends of the floor, DiVincenzo (48 minutes) had 23 points (5-of-9 3PT), seven assists, three blocks and two steals; Hart (46 minutes) put up 16 points, a game-high 14 rebounds, to go along with seven assists. 

“We knew this was gonna be a tough environment,” Hart said after the win. “A little tougher than last game because there were 2,500 seats that were taken up, but we knew it was going to be a battle, a grind and you have to give them credit. Tough series, tough place to play, but it’s a place we’re all comfortable at.”

Between both teams, it was indeed a hard fought battle all series long, as there were two games this series where a team was trailing by five or more points with 30 seconds left, and then still came back to win (Game 2: Knicks won 104-101; Game 5: 76ers won 112-106 OT). Notably, there have only been three other playoff games since 1996-1997 where a team won after trailing by five or more points with half a minute left on the game clock.

“This series probably could have went the exact opposite the way it did,” 76ers coach Nick Nurse said in the Game 6 postgame loss. “But it didn’t.”

Every game of the series was close and gritty until the end, and tonight was no different. As a team the Knicks recorded 20 offensive rebounds, compared to the 76ers who had 16 second-chance boards. New York shot 46.2% from the field (45.2% 3PT) and 75% from the free-throw line, while Philadelphia shot 43.7% (42.5% 3PT) and 95.7% on free throws.

Embiid, who predicted the 76ers would win the series despite being down 2-0, put up 39 points and 13 rebounds in a valiant effort, but ultimately came up short, as the defending MVP fouled out with 11 seconds left in the game. Throughout the series, Embiid averaged 33.0 points (44.4% FG; 33.3% 3PT), 10.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.5 blocks. 

To mention, in the final game of the season, the superstar big man did not get much help from his teammates, as two starters Tobias Harris (0-for-2) and Kyle Lowry (0-for-2) combined for 0 points. Furthermore, Embiid’s counterpart, Maxey, who scored 46 points in Game 5 and made late-game clutch shots to help force a Game 6, only put up 17 points (6-of-18 FG) in the eliminating loss.

The second-seeded Knicks (50-32) will move on to face the sixth-seeded Indiana Pacers (47-35) in the Eastern Conference semifinals matchup; Game 1 will take place Monday, May 6 at 7:30 pm ET in Madison Square Garden. The highly anticipated matchup will be reminiscent of the Reggie Miller vs. Spike Lee rivalry days, as the two teams faced-off for six playoff matchups between 1993-2000, with both teams splitting 3-3 wins vs. each other.

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