Sixers vs. Knicks: Previewing and predictions for Game 2

Sixers 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) goes to the basket past New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) during the first half in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Saturday, April 20, 2024, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The Philadelphia 76ers, after suffering a tough loss on Saturday against the Knicks, are looking to even their first-round playoff series on Monday night. If the Sixers are going to do that, they’re going to need more from their role players than they saw in Game 1.

The Knicks will look to Jalen Brunson, Miles McBride, and Josh Hart to repeat their performances from the opening game. All three scored over 20 points, and the team needed all three to beat the Sixers.

Sixers game information

Who: Philadelphia 76ers (0-1) at New York Knicks (1-0)

When: 7:30 pm EST

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia, MSG, TNT

Latest on the Sixers

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) shoots a 3-point basket over New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein, left, during the first half in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Saturday, April 20, 2024, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The Sixers need more of everything. They need more consistency, more rebounding, more of a rotation, more contributions from players not named Maxey or Embiid, they just need more. What they can start with is less, though.

Tobias Harris needs to step up, or Sixers head coach Nick Nurse must adjust the lineup because Harris is hurting the team and needs fewer minutes on the floor unless things change. After what Kelly Oubre Jr. has shown as the season wound down and how Nico Batum broke out against the Heat, the two combined for 13 points in Game 1. While that’s not enough, with Harris literally air-balling shots, missing defensive assignments, and his general lack of enthusiasm, the Sixers need him on the bench.

Harris wasn’t the only reason that the Sixers lost the first game of the series, but for a guy who’s supposed to be counted on to produce, Harris has failed the Sixers too many times recently and can’t be counted on. After five years, someone in the organization has to say that enough is enough.

Where the Sixers need to step up in the game is their rebounding. Looking at the stats from Saturday’s game, the Sixers were better than the Knicks in almost everything, with the glaring deficiency being in rebounding, where the Knicks had a 55-33 edge, including an insane 23-9 on the offensive boards.

That many second chances will doom any team, and the lack of them will surely contribute greatly to a loss. The Sixers can’t afford to lose that battle as decisively as they did in the first game. Whether that means that Batum is in the starting lineup to control the post with Embiid remains to be seen, but it’s obvious that Harris and his 31 minutes got the Sixers exactly ZERO offensive rebounds.

If the Sixers are to win Game 2, they’ll need great games from Embiid and Maxey, but they’re going to need Oubre Jr. back to the 18 points per game he’s been scoring to close out the season, Kyle Lowry to be as good and efficient as he was, and for players like Paul Reed and especially Buddy Hield to add just a little more.

Reed had 4 points and 5 rebounds in just 11 minutes, which is fine, but Hield had a big goose egg and only took two shots, looking tentative and out of place in his first playoff game. That should and needs to change if the Sixers are to have any chance at winning the game, series, or championship.

Latest on the Knicks

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) drives against Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, left, during the second half in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Saturday, April 20, 2024, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The Knicks are led by Jalen Brunson, who’s established himself as a legitimate star this season. Brunson was miserable from the field in the first game, shooting just 8-26 from the field and 1-6 from beyond the arc, but he added 7 rebounds and 7 assists in his 41 minutes on the floor. With the way Brunson plays, the ability he possesses, combined with his tenacity on the floor, you have to try to slow him down, which leads to players like Josh Hart and Miles McBride having great nights from the floor.

McBride and Hart combined to score 43 points on 12-24 shooting from the floor, while Hart added 13 rebounds on the night. Hart played nearly the whole game, with 42 minutes, but McBride was on the court for just 28 minutes. The 6’1″ guard can’t be left alone and was 5-7 on his three-point attempts. Hart, while only shooting 5-12 from the floor, was 4-8 on his three-pointers. The combination of those two having a breakout game helped save the Knicks from falling behind in the series.

While the Knicks will be brimming with confidence after their opening game victory, things won’t be so easy in the second game, and they’re going to need every bit of help from the players not named Brunson or Hart. Isaiah Hartenstein, for all of the Knicks fans’ bluster about him shutting down Embiid, had just 6 points and 7 rebounds, which isn’t going to help the team, especially if he’s getting minutes against Sixers reserve Paul Reed.

OG Anunoby is going to have to step up for the team that was looking at him being a huge piece in their quest for a title and he’s getting just 11 points and 4 rebounds in a playoff game? That’s not going to cut it. While the Sixers have some issues to resolve, the Knicks can’t rest on their laurels and hope that Hart and McBride are going to have career shooting games against a very good Sixers team.

What to watch for in Game 2

Sixers 76ers
New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, center, drives against Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) and guard Kyle Lowry (7) during the first half in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Saturday, April 20, 2024, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

First things first, the Sixers need Joel Embiid to roll back to the clock to early January and dominate the Knicks as he was dominating the league, prior to injuring his knee. Embiid had a highlight alley-oop to himself in the 2nd quarter and then immediately fell to the floor in pain.

The look on his face was that the knee had been injured again, while it seems more than likely that the brace he was wearing dug into the leg and caused the pain. Embiid came back and played the second half but has seemed out of sorts against the Heat and now the Knicks. Embiid must show the reason why he’s considered one of, if not the most, dominant player in the game.

The Sixers will need to find a rotation that works, and while head coach Nick Nurse is known to lean on his starters, he is a good enough coach to see when things aren’t working. The Tobias Harris starting playbook isn’t working; that has to change. Leaning on players like Embiid, who’s returning from a bad injury, Kyle Lowry, who’s 38 years old, and Harris, who’s not doing a thing, and having them playing large amounts of minutes isn’t a recipe for success.

The team was built to have depth and a good rotation, which always get shorter in the playoffs but you can’t have Batum getting 26 minutes off the bench and then your other three reserves combining for just 25 minutes, it’s a recipe for disaster.

The Sixers would be smart to start Batum and Oubre Jr. in order to keep the Knicks honest from the shirt-putting and shoving, as well as being a much better defensive starting lineup than the one with Harris in it. They need to find a way to get Buddy Hierd in the game and shooting so that he can get back into the groove that he seemed to be finding at the end of the season.

While Paul Reed gets the bulk of his minutes replacing Embiid, the time may be now to see if he can be on the floor with Embiid and eliminate the distance between the two teams on the offensive boards. It’s going to be a lot of problems for the team to solve in a very quick time but they have the players and the coach that can get it done. We’ll see if there are any changes made, something we knew wouldn’t happen under the previous head coach but looks like something the Nurse is smart enough to recognize and react to.


Sixers 124 – Knicks 107