Sixers in need of some home cooking in Game 3 against Knicks

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)

Games 1 and 2 of the first round of the NBA playoffs are in the books as the Philadelphia 76ers find themselves down 0-2 in the series. Hoping to turn the series around, the Sixers are in serious need of some home cooking as they return to Philadelphia for Game 3 of the best-of-seven series.

A little bit of home cooking

Maxey Sixers
Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey (0) goes up for a shot against New York Knicks’ Jericho Sims (45) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Sixers’ return to Philadelphia for Game 3 works heavily in their favor. After two brutal games in New York, the crowd—and say what you will about fans at the Garden—showed up and undoubtedly impacted the game.

Fans of Philly will have no problem doing the same, and it’s arguably necessary as the team finds themselves in a precarious position down 0-2. The Sixers had a winning percentage of 61 percent at home this season, making them a top-10 team at home, as opposed to their 53.7 winning percentage on the road.

For years, Philadelphia has been a team that has thrived at home. Finding themselves down, though certainly not out, the Sixers will need to lean into that track record of success as they aim to climb back into this series.

With the city behind them, anything is possible, as seen by their play-in match against the Miami Heat. Even still, the team must control what they can in order to do so.

Control what you can control

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Nick Nurse, right, talks to Tyrese Maxey, center, and Joel Embiid, left, during the second half of Game 2 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks, Monday, April 22, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Both of the series’ first two games were about as close as they could be, including a highly controversial finish in the Knicks’ favor over the Sixers. That’s all in the past as, regardless of the NBA’s Last Two Minute report confirming Philadelphia’s grievances, there is no changing the outcome of the first two games of this series.

The Sixers must focus on controlling what they can control and refrain from dwelling on the outcome of Game 2.

While the Sixers responded well, rebounding at a closer to even rate in Game 2 compared to Game 1, however, that went away in the game’s final moments as the team fell into old bad habits across the board. Becoming spectators instead of players, watching the Knicks as they repeatedly grabbed offensive board after offensive board. In the end, it comes down to physicality, an area where the Knicks have dominated the series.

Offensive aggression is another area where the Sixers failed at times. The bench especially stood out, namely Buddy Hield, who only attempted three shots. Both Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid went through periods of passivity, Maxey in the third and Embiid in the final four minutes of the fourth, in which they went scoreless.

If Philadelphia wants to strike back, it starts with physicality and offensive aggression. Two things that, unlike the whistle, are in the team’s control.

Unfortunately, the team cannot control injuries, but it seems they may finally have received a positive development on that front.

Could the Sixers see reinforcements?

Melton sixers
Philadelphia 76ers’ De’Anthony Melton, center, goes up for a shot against Cleveland Cavaliers’ Darius Garland, left, and Georges Niang during the first half of an NBA basketball in-season tournament game, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

After practice Wednesday afternoon, Sixers head coach Nick Nurse met with the media. Among several topics, the possibility of De’Anthony Melton making his series debut was discussed. While he promised nothing, Nurse’s update was certainly an encouraging one.

“He practiced today.” Nuse said, “I believe he’s going to be available tomorrow. I believe he’s probably questionable, but there’s a chance that he can possibly be available.”

Far more optimistic than Nurse was De’Anthony himself, who told media members that he not only practiced but felt good and also felt ready for Game 3.

Ultimately, Melton will be reevaluated ahead of the game, and for the time being, he remains questionable. However, the sight of his classic smile as he discussed how ready he felt could not be interpreted any other way than as an encouraging sign.