Studs and Duds: Hungry Knicks take a 1-0 series lead over the Philadelphia 76ers 

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The scorching finish to the regular season for the New York Knicks set the tone for the NBA playoffs. With full steam ahead and a five-game winning streak, the Knicks hosted Joel Embiid and the 76ers. Much discourse in the national media has revolved around players and NBA fans alike, lacking faith in what the Knicks are capable of.

The legacy of the New York Knicks in the modern NBA is a laugh track left on repeat, and with so much culture change throughout the organization, it’s about time the team sets a new precedent. A new standard of winning that eclipses the Knicks of old and sets the stage for a defined era in New York basketball history. The Knicks got the series off to a great start on Saturday, beating the 76ers at home with a final score of 111–104.

Studs: Josh Hart is built for the playoffs

A genuine player made for the playoffs, Josh Hart shocked the world with his play style and versatility in Game 1. Hart scored 22 points with 13 rebounds and two assists. Speculation around Hart’s shotmaking ability and how that would affect opposing defenses’ attention on Jalen Brunson was rampant.

Instead of that perspective, why not assess it as Hart will have more open looks with the attention Brunson is getting? If game one is any example, then the Philadelphia 76ers need a new game plan. The 76ers were sending bodies at Brunson, and that could work, but New York has a collection of depth and talent where that method is useless when Brunson’s supporting cast stepped up as they did in Game 1.

Hart showed he’s made for the playoffs with a huge 13-point fourth quarter, making three demoralizing shots from beyond the arch, ultimately being the difference maker as New York takes a 1-0 series lead. 

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Studs: Miles McBride is always ready

Through a season of unknowns, one never had to question the availability of Miles McBride. The third-year guard saw his playing time grow following the RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley trade and never looked back. Against the 76ers, McBride scored 21 points on 7/12 from the field. Five made threes from McBride, three of which came in the second quarter as the Knicks fought back from a slow start.

McBride had a ten-game stretch from late March to early April, where he averaged 18.9 points per game. The special delivery he served in game one was another night for New York fans but a breakout performance on a more grand stage of the NBA playoffs. The opposing team’s approach to McBride will alter as they realize he’s no one trick pony. Consistency from McBride could ultimately be the difference in a deep playoff run or early exit. The defense on Jalen Brunson will result in much-needed scoring, and McBride looks to deliver upon request. 

Studs: Brilliance from the Knicks’ supporting cast

The Knicks winning game one and how they did so speaks to a required variety needed in today’s NBA. No longer are there only two behemoths leading a rotation of common role players, but a highly skilled and sophisticated variation of players is required to meet the standard of a championship team.

New York meets every requirement, and following the Quentin Grimes and Evan Fournier trade, the Knicks solidified it even more by acquiring the 20-point-per-game scorer in Bojan Bogdanovic. In Game 1, Bogdanovic scored 13 points and seven rebounds while hitting a huge game-tying three at the top of the fourth quarter. 

Mitchell Robinson was in for a long night with the tall task of guarding reigning MVP Joel Embiid. Robinson scored eight points and had 12 rebounds, seven offensive rebounds while compiling an emphatic defensive performance. Mitchell Robinson had four blocks and one each on Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. Robinson’s ability to guard multiple positions on the floor and be a dominant presence on the boards demand attention and highlight the depth of the New York Knicks. 

Duds: Jalen Brunson must play better 

If anything had no doubt, it was that Jalen Brunson was putting on a show in Game 1. The Cerebral Assassin demanded double teams and a more physical defense to start the playoffs, scoring 22 points on 30% from the field. Adding five turnovers, Jalen Brunson was a top priority for the Philadelphia defense.

The depth of New York was a saving grace, but consistency will be crucial as teams will look to remove Brunson from the equation any chance they can. Getting off to a rough start, expect a bounce-back game from Jalen Brunson.

Fifth in the NBA this season in scoring, Jalen Brunson averaged 39 points over the last five games of the regular season. He has raised the standard when needed all season and remains the engine of the New York Knicks. 

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Duds: The Knicks struggled to defend the 76ers’ stars

The 76ers came out of the gate firing on all cylinders in Game 1. The Sixers started the game on an 18-4 run fueled by Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid. Maxey has an innate quickness that forces defenses to collapse while allowing open room on a putback or open look for Embiid.

It’s a rare one-two punch the Knicks are facing that fell on hard few months to close the season. Now, with Embiid back in the picture, still laboring his knee injury, the 76ers have the reigning MVP paired with the leading candidate for Most Improved Player of the Year. The reality is that it will take a village to sustain Embiid, but a similar defensive approach to how Brunson has been guarded would disrupt the 76ers’ flow on offense.

The possessions of Anunoby guarding Embiid show OG’s versatility, but he would be much more impactful taking Maxey out of the equation. The 76ers don’t have the same depth, but they have a strong veteran presence that showed some life but didn’t play their best, which should also be anticipated for Game 2.

Embiid aggravated his knee following an 18-point first half and only scored 11 points in the second half. Starting Mitchell Robinson on Embiid early may be the answer to keeping the reigning MVP out of momentum.

Takeaways from the Knicks’ win over the 76ers

The New York Knicks dominated the fourth quarter as OG Anunoby and Josh Hart hit big threes down the stretch. The Knicks may have won that game, but that wasn’t their highest level of basketball. The playoffs insist on being your best every game, and better performances from Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo, while sustaining defensive integrity, will set the Knicks on a championship trajectory. 

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