Jalen Brunson, Tom Thibodeau pinpoint pivotal play that signals Knicks downfall

Tyrese Maxey, Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks

Jalen Brunson was disappointed after the New York Knicks collapsed in the second half in one of his former collegiate stomping grounds.

The Knicks squandered a 12-point third-quarter lead and fell to the Philadelphia 76ers, 119-108, Friday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Brunson and New York coach Tom Thibodeau knew exactly when the wheels fell off their wagon in the second half.

“We were rolling, and we had the game pretty much in check until, I think, we had a couple of turnovers and then the back-to-back threes when they cut it to five, it was 86-81,” Brunson said after the loss, “and then from that point on, [Philadelphia] kind of had control of the game.”

A Brunson layup gave the Knicks a 12-point spread, 83-71, with 6:48 left in the third quarter. Then Tyrese Maxey subbed in to spark the 76ers’ comeback.

“We played very well in the first half,” Thibodeau said. “We had one sequence in the third quarter I didn’t like. We had a couple of turnovers, careless turnovers that they turned into threes. So, we had a good cushion, we were playing pretty well, and that changed the momentum of the game.”

Both Brunson and Thibodeau were referring to RJ Barrett’s careless turnover off an inbound play that led to a Maxey three-pointer with 5:23 remaining in the third quarter.

The 76ers outscored the Knicks 38-22 the rest of the way. The Knicks could only cough up 15 points on a paltry 6 of 17 shots in the final quarter after a scorching 57.8 percent shooting in the first three quarters.

Their inability to cover the three-point line on the defensive end and break Philadelphia’s zone defense at the other end did the Knicks in.

Maxey hit three 3s to lead the 76ers’ breakaway in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia made 6 of 12 from downtown in the final 12 minutes.

The Knicks could only hit 2 of 6 three-pointers in the fourth quarter. Worse, the 76ers outrebounded them 13-6 during that pivotal stretch.

Josh Hart’s arrival could help the Knicks in that department when they try to lick the wounds of the defeat Saturday against the Utah Jazz.

Hart, averaging a career-best 8.2 rebounds, is one of the top rebounding guards in the league. He is expected to make his Knicks debut as they hope to bounce back at home.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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