Studs and Duds: Knicks hold a 2-1 series lead following Philadelphia win in Game 3

NBA: Playoffs-New York Knicks at Philadelphia 76ers
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks were on the road for Game 3 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Against the Philadelphia 76ers, New York had all the momentum coming in with a 2-0 series lead over the reigning MVP Joel Embiid. The circumstances following Game 2 followed New York to Philadelphia in what became a parody of itself as Embiid made it his mission to win Game 3 by any means. Jalen Brunson bounced back tremendously with a 39-point and 13 assists effort, but it was Embiid leading all scorers with 50 points to fend off the Notorious New York Knicks and earn the 76ers a 125–114 win

Studs: Jalen Brunson is back in form

The first two games of the series saw back-to-back poor shooting nights from Jalen Brunson. Averaging 23 points per game on 29% from the field, there was much to anticipate coming into Game 3. Brunson jumped out of the gate with a 17-point first half and followed that with 22 in the second, as every time the Sixers pulled away Brunson was there with an answer.

NBA: Playoffs-New York Knicks at Philadelphia 76ers
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Tough officiating throughout Game 3 made it harder for shooters to stay in rhythm, but Brunson had no issues given the circumstances. On the road against a desperate Sixers team, Brunson gave his best playoff performance, so far, this season. Taking over 25 shots in each game, Brunson is warming up to have a historic performance as shots begin to fall. 

Studs: The Knicks’ supporting cast never misses 

The cliche of NBA basketball suggests that role players have less impact on the road, but the New York Knicks have a variety of players built for the grandest stage. Josh Hart, in a most recent Instagram post, voiced what has been articulated all season. “ When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” 

The collection of cohesive personalities has been New York’s bread and butter all year and has been the reason New York sits with a 2-1 series lead to begin with. Josh Hart logged another marathon playing 43 minutes with 20 points, six rebounds, and six assists. OG Anunoby, the most elite two-way player in the league, had his hands full, containing Tyrese Maxey and the Sixers forward tandem of Kelly Oubre and Tobias Harris.

Anunoby scored 17 points in the process while never giving up. Two big threes in the fourth quarter from OG brought the game within single digits, but the Knicks as a unit couldn’t get over the hump on this occasion. 

Duds: Mitchell Robinson is dealing with injuries 

Joel Embiid has stayed in interviews that Mitchell Robinson gives him problems defensively. The length, lateral quickness, and size of Robinson are all qualities that work against maximizing Joel Embiid. In the first quarter, Embiid was trying to draw a charge on Anunoby, and when he fell he grabbed and pulled Mitchell Robinson down from a sitting position. 

In the second quarter, Embiid made a mid-range jumper that saw him kick his foot out to the groin of Robinson. Robinson was seen leaving Game 3 in a walking boot on his left leg following 11 minutes of playing time as he attempted to play through the pain, but it was too much. 

Robinson missed time this season with left ankle surgery, and the proper precautions surrounding such an injury may mean an extended absence for Mitchell Robinson. 

Duds: The Knicks couldn’t defend Joel Embiid 

NBA: Playoffs-New York Knicks at Philadelphia 76ers
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

For all the statistics and awards, an NBA Finals appearance has alluded Embiid his entire career. Year after year of letdown has the 30-year-old center in a mode of desperation. Following Game 2, Embiid sat demoralized and lacking integrity in post-game media interviews while his teammates and coaches alike went to bat on officiating and other criticisms of Game 2.

Now it’s Game 3, and the Knicks are keeping the game close. Mitchell Robinson has been praised by Embiid himself for his potential, and coincidentally, it was Robinson on the receiving end of a frustrated and desperate Embiid.

Pulling Robinson by the right ankle and landing on his lower legs repeatedly, the ‘crash dummy’ antics of Embiid paid off as he only had 17 in the first half with Robinson playing and erupted for 33 points in the second half while going 5/5 from three-point range in Robinson’s absence.

The NBA is a game of matchups, and containing Embiid was the ‘Mitchell Robinson’ assignment following the eight-point and 12-rebound night in Game 1. The Knicks will now rely on the duo of Hartenstein and Precious Achiuwa, but the lack of size against Embiid can become a mismatch nightmare. 

Takeaways from the Knicks’ loss to the 76ers in Game 3

The New York Knicks still hold a 2-1 series lead, and given the animosity and tension in the series, Game 4 will be a war in Philadelphia. Jalen Brunson played a magnificent game as the leader and ‘cerebral assassin’ of the New York Knicks, but with the defensive help of Anunoby on Maxey and added scoring from DiVincenzo, New York has a blueprint to winning this series.

The antics of Joel Embiid are becoming increasingly apparent to the NBA basketball enjoyer following Game 3. Regardless, Coach Thibodeau will have a harder time generating a defensive scheme to contain Embiid. Tyrese Maxey had a quieter shooting night in Game 3, and with a 50-point performance from Embiid, the Sixers only won by nine.

This series is still in New York’s favor, and a dominant Game 4 to close it out at home in five games will be on the agenda for the Knicks. 

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