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Independence Fall: Knicks Drop Game 3, 76ers’ Embiid Showcase

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If the New York Knicks packed brooms for their road trip to Philadelphia, they’ll remain in their suitcases.

A career-best showing from Joel Embiid put the Philadelphia 76ers on the board in their ongoing Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, as a 125-114 decision on Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center will prevent a New York sweep. Having wasted a 39-point, 13-assist double-double from Jalen Brunson, the Knicks now lead the series 2-1.

Embiid, the reigning NBA MVP, made good on the first part of his promise to guide the 76ers to a comeback from 2-0 down in the best-of-seven series with a 50-point showing that stands with the likes of Allen Iverson and Billy Cunningham as one of most prolific playoff shooting performances in Philadelphia franchise history. That historic trio stands as the only Sixers to reach the half-century mark in a postseason game.


Apr 25, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) is fouled

The Knicks withstood early Sixer energy to take a 58-55 lead by halftime, partly sustained by Jalen Brunson returning to form to the tune of 17 points, matching Embiid on 7-of-15 shooting. But Philadelphia ran away with the game in the third, sinking nine three-pointers on a dozen attempts en route to a 43-27 victory in the period.

Thursday proved to be quite the saga for Embiid: shortly after the Sixers wrapped up their win, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Philadelphia franchise face has been dealing with Bell’s Palsy for the past week-plus. Said to be caused by damage to facial nerves, the ailment didn’t stop Embiid from hitting 13-of-19 from the floor and 19-of-21 from the foul line. In contrast, the Knicks only received 19 free throw attempts as a team, though they only hit 13 (including 1-of-4 when Embiid and Kyle Lowry were charged with flagrant one fouls).

In addition to joining Philadelphia playoff royalty, Embiid is also the first player in NBA playoff history to reach 50 points on less than 20 tries from the field.

In addition to the usual production from Embiid and Tyrese Maxey (25 points), Philadelphia also enjoyed scoring outbursts from Kelly Oubre Jr. (15 points on 6-of-8) and Cameron Payne, who came off the bench to score 11 in his first 16 minutes of postseason action.

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Apr 25, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) shoots

Embiid proved to be a pain both literally and figuratively on Thursday night: the dominant effort was partly marred by a flagrant one foul in the first quarter, one where a downed Embiid grabbed the ankle of Mitchell Robinson while the latter was in the air.

Robinson, who pulled in seven rebounds in 12 minutes off the bench, played the rest of the first half with a limp and was ruled out of the second with a left ankle injury that originally had him questionable on Thursday’s pregame injury report. Embiid later appeared to raise his foot to the groin of Robinson on a successful jumper in the latter stages of the half. Robinson’s injury gave way to Precious Achiuwa, who likewise earned his first minutes of the postseason in breaking a steadfast loyalty to an eight-man set.

Josh Hart had 20 points primarily built by a 4-of-8 effort from three-point range as he kept his consistency up next to fellow Villanova Wildcat Brunson, but another former Philadelphian, Donte DiVincenzo, was limited to just five, two of which came on a showstopping dunk to close out the first half. OG Anunoby had a playoff-best 17 on 7-of-11 from the field while Isaiah Hartenstein had 14 on 7-of-12 despite dealing with foul trouble for most of the night.

Both sides will be back in Philadelphia for Game 4 on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. ET, ABC).

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