Studs and Duds: Knicks take a 2-0 lead over the 76ers in playoff classic

New York Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo (0) reacts after making a three point basket during the fourth quarter during game two of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers at Madison Square Garden
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks hosted the Philadelphia 76ers in a playoff classic. In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Philadelphia 76ers, led by Joel Embiid, once again jumped out of the gate to a 9–0 lead fueled by Tyrese Maxey.

The tremendous depth of the New York Knicks has been the ‘X-factor’ in the series as, according to Elias Sports Bureau, the Knicks are the fourth team in the past 25 seasons to win a playoff game after trailing by at least five points in the final 30 seconds of regulation. The Knicks pulled ahead in the final seconds for a 104–101 win.

Studs: Donte DiVincenzo comes up clutch

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, following turmoil in Golden State, Donte DiVincenzo averaged five points in 13 playoff games. Against the 76ers in Game 1, things seemed to be off to a rocky start, but DiVincenzo silenced all doubt in Game 2. Scoring 19 points with four made threes, DiVincenzo showed the NBA world what Knicks fans have been a part of all season.

Another night in the office for DiVincenzo coincided with a playoff memory for the ages as with 30 seconds remaining, the Knicks were down five points, then with 13 seconds remaining, the Knicks were up one behind a clutch three-pointer from Donte DiVincenzo.

An amazing sequence that saw New York go on an 8-0 run to close the game. New York now holds a 2-0 series lead and looks the most electrifying they have in over a decade as DiVincenzo has been handling business all year long. 

Studs: Isaiah Hartenstein highlights the Knicks’ frontcourt depth

This performance from Isaiah Hartenstein highlights the front-court depth the Knicks possess that puts them in that championship-caliber tier of NBA teams. Hartenstein did all of his scoring in the second half but finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks on 7/8 from the field. In the third quarter, he went 5/5 with timely buckets and an unbridled tenacity against the reigning MVP Joel Embiid.

On the lead-taking three from DiVincenzo with 15 seconds remaining, it was Isaiah Hartenstein’s clutch offensive rebound that set the stage to send New York home with a win. In the grandest moment, it was the Knicks center making the winning play on both ends, as when the 76ers had a chance to go for the win, it was again Isaiah Hartenstein to the rescue with a game-saving block on Tyrese Maxey. 

The determination and dedication of Hartenstein show his passion for the game and how instrumental embedding a culture is for a team to set the standard. His performance is shocking in the playoff atmosphere on a bigger stage, but he’s been integral to this team’s success all season. 

Studs: Josh Hart is a rebound machine

The impact of Josh Hart still can’t be understood by even the most notable basketball analysts. One word comes to mind when summing up the impact that Hart brings every night, and that is intangibles. The super glue of the New York Knicks, as he has played all but five minutes in the first two games of this series.

In Game 2, Hart scored 21 points, and 15 rebounds with two steals and two blocks in 48 minutes. The most surprising statistic from Josh Hart has been his success rate from three as he went 4/7 in Game 2 and is shooting 53% through two games with eight makes from downtown. It’s the ability to reach every bag of skills and bring just enough to be essential to every aspect of a game.

The shot-making from Hart has overshadowed the fact he never stops moving on defense and approaches every possession like it’s his last. With Brunson having another off night, it was Josh Hart being the engine for the Knicks, and critics may see that as an issue, but Knicks faithful understand there are a few guys on the roster that become the human torch when given the reigns.

Duds: Jalen Brunson needs to play better

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

This edition would be a ‘Studs No Duds’ to go up 2-0 on the reigning MVP, but the performances from Jalen Brunson have been abysmal. The Philadelphia defense is showing extra attention to Brunson, but there is a fine line between being aggressive and poor shot selection. Brunson began the game going 2/8 in the first quarter, predominantly missing open looks, but in the fourth quarter, he went 2/8 while attempting to convert on primarily well-contested floaters and jump shots. Jalen Brunson finished with 24 points, eight rebounds, and six assists on 8/29 from the floor. Tremendously, the Knicks hold a 2-0 series lead, which is a testament to the cohesiveness of this Knicks unit. While the level of play from his supporting cast has lived beyond expectations, Brunson must return to form to close the series dominantly. 

Takeaways from the Knicks’ win over the 76ers

The Knicks escaped another dynamic performance from the Sixers duo of Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. Combining for 69 points in the contest, they will require more help from teammates to get the job done, and role players play better at home. Embiid stated in the postgame, “We should be 2-0. We’re good. We’re going to win this series.” The New York Knicks are in perfect position to demoralize and defame the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night. The Knicks gained the second seed but not much respect from media syndicates regarding their capabilities in the playoffs. Jalen Brunson’s performances have been subpar, but with the Knicks still winning, the reality is formulating that New York can make a sustainable run this NBA Playoffs. 

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