Philly Wins Trench War 79-73

Having been blown out by the Knicks in their prior two meetings, and currently without Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia coach Nick Nurse had the 76’ers drag the Knicks into the trenches -– playing a tough, physical game from the start — and beat NY on a Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, 79-73.

The score was 37-31 at the half.

It was like a hockey game in the old days, when a disadvantaged team would play for a tie by mucking up the game.

The Knicks of course are still missing Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, and Mitchell Robinson.

Still the Knicks could have, should have won if Jalen Brunson hadn’t had the worst shooting night of his season – some of it due to the very physical defense and double teams that Philly threw at him, spearheaded by Knick nemesis Kyle Lowry, and some of it due to his shot just not falling. Brunson was 6-22 (1-9 from 3) for 19 points. His teammates didn’t help — NY shot 9-40 from 3 and also committed 19 turnovers against the torrid Philly defense.

The Knicks had blown out the Philadelphia 128-92 on January 5th at MSG, in a game that had Embiid and Maxey and Randle and OG — a newcomer to the Knicks at that time. And then the Knicks beat the 76ers easily in Philly on February 22, 110-96.

“It was a physical hard-fought game,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “We came up short. Our turnovers probably were the difference in the game. Their ball pressure had a lot to do with it. We have to do a better job with that. I thought our ball pressure was pretty good. We got some turnovers and scored off that. In a game like this you need those easy buckets.”

“I thought our defense was good,” continued Thibs. “I thought the rebounding was good enough. They made a couple of shots late the 3rd, start of the 4th — but we fought; got back. We had a chance at the end; had a couple of turnovers that hurt us there. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

NY falls to 37-27, on a night when Miami, Cleveland, and Orlando also lost. Philly improves to 36-26.

1. The Score Was 37-31 Philly at the Half!

Philly came out with a tough, hard-nosed in-your-face defense, and the Knicks matched it. The score was 15-15 at the end of the 1st quarter.

NY kept missing shots; Philly kept missing shots.

The score was 37-31 Philly at the half.

2. Knicks 19 Turnovers & 9-40 from 3

The Knicks kept missing shots.

The only Knicks with the knack were Bogdan Bogdanovic off the bench with 4-8 shooting (2-4 from 3), Alec Burks with 1-3 shooting for 3 pts in 12 minutes, and Jericho Sims with 2-3 shooting for 4 pts.

Philly starters also had a tough time scoring against the Knick D:

  • Tobias Harris was 5-14 (0-4 from 3)
  • Chris Payne was 3-14 (1-6 from 3)
  • Kelly Oubre Jr was 6-19 (0-3 from 3)

The Knicks frenetic defense was led by Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo, with Isaiah Hartenstein and Precious Achiuwa eating up the inside.

“Josh Hart’s effort and activity never change no matter whether his shot is falling or the Knicks happen to struggle like they did in the first half,” noted NBA Analyst Ross Kreines. “This effort and activity keeps you in games even when you don’t have your best stuff. Play hard through every possession.”

3. Brunson Doubled, Tripled, & Lowry-ed

And then there was Kyle Lowry — former Villanova star who Eric Spoelstra once said was the first of the tough Villanova NBA ballplayers.

Lowry and lots of double teams throttled Brunson all night — and when Brunson broke free for shots, they rolled in and out — possibly bothered by Lowry’s constant pressure.

Despite that — Lowry was a -14; Brunson was a +2. Because of the defense the Knick starters were playing, most ended up with a positive or even +/-, while Philly’s starters had a negative +/-.

Philly got good shooting off the bench — and that helped them:

4. Knicks Down 4 with 10 Minutes Left Couldn’t Close It

Burks free throws and a Bogdanovic 3 pulled NY to within 4 points at 65-61 with 10:34 left in the game.

But then Buddy Hield hit a step-back to put Philly up 6.

Josh Hart missed a 3; Miles McBride missed a 3; and Buddy Hield HIT a 3 and Philly was up 9 with 7:42 left. It was that type of night.

The Knicks tried to pull it out in the final minutes:

  • Josh Hart hit a 3, negated by a Kyle Lowry 3, followed by a Hart dive that pulled NY to within 5 points with 1:40 left.
  • But Jalen Brunson missed a 3 from top of the key — an airball — with a minute left.NY still down NY got the ball back and Precious Achiuwa missed a 3 with 30 seconds left — NY still down 5.
  • Achiuwa stole the ball off the rebound, and fed DiVincenzo who lost the ball out of bounds. And that was ballgame. A fitting end.

The Boxscore

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