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Knicks at 76ers: Halftime Thoughts From Game 3

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Thursday’s game between the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers has perhaps turned out to be icier than anything the Rangers and Flyers could’ve churned up this spring.

Physicality and hurt feelings defined the early stages of the rivals’ third game in the 2024 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, but the Knicks, seekers of a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven set, have inched out to a 58-55 lead after 24 minutes.

Knicks (58)

  • Points: Jalen Brunson (17)
  • Assists: Jalen Brunson (5)
  • Rebounds: Mitchell Robinson (7)

76ers (55)

  • Points: Joel Embiid (17)
  • Assists: Nic Batum/Kelly Oubre Jr. (2)
  • Rebounds: Joel Embiid (5)

That Was a Close One

Though Philadelphia was rolling with the momentum gleaned from a home crowd and vindication about the officiating from Game 2’s Last Two Minute Report, they couldn’t down the Knicks as they did in the opening stanzas of the prior two contests, where they built double-figure leads on each occassion. Jalen Brunson’s resurgence is a big part of that, as the Knicks’ franchise face broke out of a postseason slump in the first half with 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting. Between that and five assists, Brunson played a direct role in 30 of the Knicks’ 58 points in the early going.

Foul Shooting

One of the reasons why the Knicks have been able to withstand Philadelphia’s early momentum is that Thursday’s pace has slowed down to the Knicks liking thanks in part to five different reviews, two of which yielded flagrant foul calls against Joel Embiid and Kyle Lowry. Philadelphia might’ve had some goodwill with officials thanks to the L2M revelations, ones that might’ve forced the Knicks to be on their best behavior. The aforementioned overphysicality, however, more or less put things back on even ground … but the Knicks have struggled to take advantage. The Knicks hit only 1-of-4 attempts that stemmed from the aforementioned flagrants and were 3-of-7 overall.

Precious Time

If one was silly enough to doubt Mitchell Robinson’s toughness before tonight, any naysayers should be fully eradicated after he put up seven rebounds on what’s basically one good ankle. But the Knicks will happily sacrifice a feel-good story for a crucial playoff victory, evidenced when they finally allowed Precious Achiuwa to step on the floor. With Robinson ailing and Isaiah Hartenstein fouling, Achiuwa played three strong minutes and didn’t allow the mighty Embiid any space in that limited time. It’ll be interesting to see Robinson’s fate and whether Achiuwa gets to cash in on the trust he built over this season. Philadelphia also oped to expand its rotation on Thursday as well, as Cameron Payne became the ninth man in style with eight points in eight minutes.

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