Sixers vs. Knicks: Preview and predictions for Game 3

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 Philadelphia 76ers are home on Thursday night for game three of their first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks. With the return of Joel Embiid, no one would have predicted that the Sixers would be returning home, down 2-0 in the series.

All is not well for the Sixers, as the only two players who have done a thing for them are Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid. For the Knicks, Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo have played well but not great. The Sixers have been beating themselves.

Sixers game information

Who: New York Knicks (2-0) at Philadelphia 76ers (0-2)

When: 7:30 pm EST

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA

Watch: TNT, NBC Sports Philadelphia, MSG

Latest on the Sixers

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)

It’s desperation time for the Sixers, who looked like one of the best teams in the league for the first half of the year, looked like a lottery team during Joel Embiid’s absence, then closed out the season on an eight-game winning streak. That streak was halted immediately by the Knicks, the referees, and most importantly, the Sixers themselves.

There have been questionable calls, league information showing that the referees missed a bunch of stuff in the last couple of minutes of game two, a lack of adaptation from Sixers head coach Nick Nurse, and much more, but the Sixers’ largest problem is themselves.

The starting trio of Tobias Harris, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Kyle Lowry shot a combined 8-24 from the field in the loss on Monday night. They combined for 22 points, with Oubre jr. only managing 4 points and Harris shooting just 4-11 on the night. (The Knicks starters all managed double figures.) It simply can’t continue like this for a Sixers team with title aspirations.

While all coaches go to shorter benches in the playoffs, the Sixers are just doing a poor job of player recognition and moving their pieces around. Nico Batum, who should be starting over Tobias Harris, still played 33 minutes but only finished with six points and five rebounds, which is normal for him but isn’t cutting it when the three starters are getting 22 points.

Batum and Oubre play well together on the floor, yet Nurse continues to run Harris out there for extended minutes. He has simply not shown enough to remain on the court in an extended role. Nurse has to have had enough and move him to the bench.

Latest on the Knicks

Philadelphia 76ers’ Nicolas Batum (40) defends against New York Knicks’ Jalen Brunson (11) during the second half of Game 2 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Monday, April 22, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

To hear the Knicks and their fans talk, they’re the Boston Celtics of the 1960’s, simply the greatest team to ever step on a court. They’re up two games in the series and are halfway to the second round but they still have to win two more games against a Sixers team that can score points and get hot in a short amount of time.

Jalen Brunson, who’s really taken over in New York and shown that he’s a true star in the league, hasn’t been very good at all, but he’s doing some of the extras that get a team to the next round. Brunson has been horrible from the field, shooting just 29.1%, and he’s an even worse 16.7% on his three-point attempts. Yet, he’s averaging 7.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists, which is helping the team win games.

After Josh Hart and Miles McBride both had explosive games to open the series, Donte DiVincenzo took his turn in the second game, including hitting the game-winning three with just seconds remaining. The Knicks have had secondary players step up when they need them, something that the Sixers have had none of.

Will tonight but OG Anunoby’s turn? Will Isaiah Hartenstein dominate as everyone in New York said he would? It remains to be seen but if the past two games are any indication, someone will step up and have themselves a great game.

What to watch for tonight

Philadelphia 76ers’ Buddy Hield, left, tries to keep the ball away from New York Knicks’ Josh Hart during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

At this point it’s almost like a car crash for the Sixers, you shouldn’t look but you can’t turn away from the horror that’s unfolding. The Sixers have, arguably, one of the greatest players in the league and in franchise history, playing for them right now and they can’t seem to get it right when it comes to the playoffs.

What’s the point of surrounding Embiid with shooters and depth if they can’t shoot nor do they use any sort of rotation?

For all of Tyrese Maxey’s improvement and greatness this season, he alone can’t save the team. He can’t be the only one besides Embiid, trying to win a game, trying to make the right plays or getting open for shots.

Maxey has had an enormous weight on his shoulders over this entire season and he’s responded in a huge way, making an All-Star team, winning the Most Improved Player award for the league, becoming a top 15 scorer, and securing his place as the second star that the Sixers have sought to pair with Embiid for years now. But Maxey can’t do it alone.

Tonight, the Sixers need to see something from Oubre Jr., Harris, Batum, Lowry, and Hield. They need someone to step up and help their two stars. If Nick Nurse doesn’t make some changes and get the Sixers in the best position to win tonight, then it’s over, and you can tune in on Sunday to watch the last remnants of the Sixers sink to the bottom.


Sixers 114 – Knicks 103