Sixers vs. Knicks: How to watch, betting preview & predictions for Game 1

New York Knicks’ Jalen Brunson, left, gets past Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia 76ers are in New York City to take on the Knicks as they set off on a journey they hope will end with them holding high the NBA Championship trophy. The Sixers ended their regular season on an eight-game winning streak and then dispatched the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, 105-104, to secure the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Knicks are the second seed in the East and finished their regular season on a five-game winning streak, taking down the Celtics and the Bucks during the streak. This series is going to be a tough one for both teams.

Sixers game information

Who: Philadelphia 76ers (0-0) at New York Knicks (0-0)

When: 6:00 pm EST

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

Watch: NBC Sports Network, MSG, ESPN

Latest on the Sixers

Philadelphia 76ers’ Kyle Lowry, center, looks to pass the ball while losing his balance during the second half of an NBA basketball play-in tournament game against the Miami Heat, Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Philadelphia. The 76ers won 105-104.(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

The Sixers took down the Miami Heat on Wednesday in the play-in tournament battle, and the game was closer than anyone would have liked. While Joel Embiid finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds, he looked out of sorts throughout most of the game.

Whether it was not looking to be in game shape or if he was favoring the surgically repaired knee, Embiid was not the dominant player that the NBA had seen prior to his injury. Embiid had 12 points entering the fourth quarter and was shooting just 3-12 on the night then he kicked into another gear when it looked like he was about to fall apart. Embiid scored 11 points on 3-5 shooting in the fourth quarter to help the Sixers close out the Heat.

Guard Tyrese Maxey had 19 points and 6 assists, while Kelly Oubre Jr. finished with 11 points and 8 rebounds. Both players were having a rough night as they combined for 9-25 from the field and just 1-7 on their three-point attempts. Guard Kyle Lowry, while only scoring, finished with 7 points and 5 rebounds, but his two steals were crucial, and the energy and defense Lowry played made a huge difference for a team that looked like it was just starting to play together rather than starting a playoff run.

With all of that going on, the usually invisible man showed the Heat exactly who he was. Nico Batum has spent the season doing all of the things that go unnoticed on a stat sheet but are invaluable to a team that’s looking to win a title. Then the Heat started collapsing on Embiid and closing out on Maxey so what was Batum to do? Drop 20 points on the Heat, including 6-10 on his three-point attempts.

Each time the momentum seemed to swing to the Heat, there was Batum to snatch it right back. Easily his best game as a Sixers came at the time they needed him most. Without Batum, the Sixers wouldn’t be in the position they’re in on the season, and they surely wouldn’t be where they’re at today to take on the Knicks.

Latest on the Knicks

The Knicks are the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference, and they’ve earned as they finished the season on a five-game winning streak and jumped over the collapsing Milwaukee Bucks on the final day of the regular season. The Knicks can put up some points, as they’re the 7th place in offensive rating, which would show that the Knicks are scoring 117.3 points per game. Their defense can be just as good where they finished the season with the 9th ranked defense a 112.1 rating.

The team is led by Jalen Brunson who finished fourth in the league in scoring at 28.7 points per game. Brunson has taken off since coming to New York and has shown, under the brightest of lights, that he’s a true star in the league. He’s leading a team that can’t be underestimated despite losing star Julius Randle to injury. The Knicks are a very good team, but when it comes to the Sixers, Brunson has seen his scoring drop to 22.3 points in four games against the Sixers this year. It’s going to be a tough matchup for the star when he’s facing a very good defensive team in Philadelphia.

OG Anunoby, Donte DiVincenzo, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Josh Hart will work next to Brunson. The team is talented and can get points from any of those guys who can also play very good defense. DiVincenzo has taken a big step this season, his first in New York, as he set career highs in scoring at 15.5 points per game and is shooting a career-best 40.1% on his three-point attempts.

Anunoby came to the Kicks prior to the trade deadline this season and was looked to be another star to pair with Brunson and Randle, which hasn’t really played out as they’d hoped. Anunoby has played in just 23 games with the Knicks as he battled some injuries and hasn’t been any better for the team than he’s been in the past.

In fact, with the Knicks, Anunoby is having one of the worst statistical seasons of the past 5 years in the league. While stats don’t account for all that he brings to the table, the Knicks are going to need him to step up if they’re going to beat the Sixers in the series.

What to watch for

Embiid sixers
Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid goes up for a shot during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Sixers and Knicks will always have fierce battles as the rivalry has been going on for years, but this season, the Knicks have exceeded expectations and are the 2nd seed in the East, while the Sixers had to beat the Heat in a play-in game in order to get themselves the 7th seed.

While it’s safe to assume that the Sixers wouldn’t even be close to that position if Joel Embiid hadn’t been lost for two months to injury, the reality is that the teams are more evenly matched than the rankings would suggest.

Joel Embiid is going to have to play his best against the Knicks and there can’t be a lot of games like the one he played against the Heat. For whatever is bothering Embiid, he needs to leave it in the locker room for just a few more weeks and battle through it. The Sixers need Embiid to play close to his usual standard if they’re going to stand a chance against a very good Knicks team.

While Embiid is the biggest name in the series, the Sixers fate will ultimately come down to whether Tyrese Maxey and Kelly Oubre Jr. are able to continue their regular season success and help as the teams two complementary stars. Embiid has already stated that Oubre Jr. is third star on the team, despite what Tobias Harris may be paid, Oubre was on the floor to close out the Heat while Harris stayed on the bench.

The Sixers need to send a message in the first game. Embiid has to have something close to what he normally does, over 30 points and 11 rebounds, while Maxey and Oubre will both be close to or above the 20-point mark. The key for the Sixers is that their added depth provides just that in this series, moving forward. Tobias Harris is going to have to show something, anything, to the team, and as his time in Philly looks to be coming to an end, he needs to show up in a big way for this playoff run.

You can’t expect Nico Batum to have many games like he did against the Heat, but in the back of the minds of the Knicks players, they have to be aware that he’s out there, not afraid to shoot, and able to make shots and put up a bunch of points. Combine Batum with Buddy Hield, Cam Payne, Paul Reed, and Kyle Lowry, and the Sixers have one of their best all-around rosters heading into the playoffs.

Tonight is the first step in which they hope will be a long run through the playoffs. Take each game, one at a time, and walk through the playoffs, leaving other teams in their wake. It’s time for Embiid and the Sixers to show why they’re the team that the league should fear the most.


Sixers 115 – Knicks 112