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Breaking down Knicks' Game 3 loss to 76ers, looking ahead to Game 4

Joel Embiid’s flagrant foul(s?), Mitchell Robinson’s injuries and the free-throw discrepancies were the biggest storylines from Game 3. But if you looked under the surface, there were plenty of other factors that led to the Sixers’ first win in the series. Brendan Brown breaks down those factors below and tells you what trends to keep an eye on ahead of Game 4 on Sunday.

Here’s another great breakdown from Brown:

** WHY WAS BRUNSON BETTER?

BROWN: “He (Jalen Brunson) had 39 points (13-of-27 FG, 3-of-7 3P, 10-of-12 FT) and 13 assists against four turnovers. I think what you saw out of him was sharper decision-making. He looked for shots on the break or in the flow. There were instances where in the half-court, he just made a quick dribble or two, and got to his spot, and shot confidently, on balance. He still probed with the dribble in the game vs length, and he missed many of those shots again. But when he probed and drew defense, he made quicker passes away, which led to many Knicks buckets. Attacking in transition will work for him the rest of the series - the Sixers aren’t always too quick to match up. The sharp one or two dribbles, not taking into account the length of the defender, seemed to get him back on track. Going to his spot. His shot. Good footwork. Knock it down. If help is there, spray it out.”

** STRONG KNICKS FRONT-LINE SCORING

BROWN: “(Josh) Hart with 20, (OG) Anunoby with 17, (Isaiah) Hartenstein with 14. When you think of a normal Knick game where Brunson is going to have like 30, you would say this production from the front line would get you a win. Anunoby making different shots off of dribble moves, that was an excellent development. Hartenstein is doing a good job spacing off (Joel) Embiid, and making the flip shots with efficiency. If the Knicks get 51 points, or something like that, from the frontline, that will go a long way to getting more wins. In Game 3, Hart, Hartenstein and Anunoby shot a combined 22-for-39 (56 percent) and hit 7 of 13 threes. Very strong shooting. (They did not attempt a free throw.)

“Six Knicks are averaging double figures through three games; that’s important in terms of people - but also where the Knicks are scoring from. Each of the six guys is contributing from a different area, and in terms of strategy, this is potentially a major advantage (as noted in our Game 2 analysis). Anunoby’s assertiveness is big."

Apr 25, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) controls the ball in front of New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) and guard Donte DiVincenzo (0) during the second half of game three of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Wells Fargo Center.

** HART VS HARRIS- IS IT REALLY THIS EASY TO DEDUCE?

BROWN: “There are about 10 different ways to break down the stats, the personnel, etc., before you get to this matchup. But, the playoffs come down to off-ball offense. (Tobias) Harris is the main Sixer on the weak side, usually in the corner. He is getting several good opportunities- time to shoot an open 3, drive against a closeout, etc. He is doing very little with that; he’s averaging 8.3 PPG (39 percent FG, 27 percent 3PT). He has not shot a free throw in the series. Hart - the main off-ball Knick in the series - is averaging 21 PPG on 45 percent shooting and 52 percent from beyond the arc. Whether he is at the top, in the arc or the weakside corner, Hart continues to make excellent decisions. After the All-Star break, he only averaged two 3-point attempts per game in the regular season. But he has made a point to probe with a dribble or two or even three to get to the elbow area. He makes that 10-14 foot shot with regularity now. He has for six weeks. If the rotations come to him, he makes good passes for assists and easy passes. He has taken a negative into a major positive. Just like (Miles) McBride and (Kyle) Lowry are linked, Hart is wiping out Harris in this area."

DONTE - NOT BLAZING.

BROWN: “Inside the league, you had to wonder, if someone had a week to think about defending the Knicks, would it make a difference? As the Knicks tried to survive without OG and (Julius) Randle in the second half, Donte (DiVincenzo) was getting double-figure three-point attempts in many games; sometimes as many as 15 in a game. After three games in this series, DiVincenzo is averaging 5.3 three-point attempts. The Sixers seem to just run him off the line and make him shoot twos. As the Knicks search for consistent offense, how can he get the attempts up? It’s harder in the playoffs to space the floor, to get away (from defenses) etc."

** SIXERS 3-POINT SHOOTING (15-of-31 3PT [48.4 percent] in Game 3; 9-of-12 [75 percent] in the third quarter)

BROWN: “Do the Sixers usually do this? The answer is, not really. In the regular season, the Sixers made 15 3s in a game 18 times (21.9 percent of their games). They went 11-7 in those 18 games. When you think that Embiid missed 43 games, and the Sixers might have relied on the three more without him – it’s still just 18 games. As far as the percentage from Game 3 (48.4 percent) goes, they only surpassed that mark in two regular season games and tied that mark twice. So the percentage is kind of an aberration for them. How does that play out the rest of the series?"

** OTHER KEY STATS AFTER 3 GAMES OF THE SERIES…

  • One point separates the Sixers (110.0) and Knicks (109.7)…

  • The Sixers (2nd) and Knicks (3rd) are at the top of the league in playoff scoring; you’d think this series is a slugfest without a ton of pace but that is not the case.

  • The Knicks rank No. 1 in offensive rebound percentage (40.0) - no surprise there. But they are only 12th out of 16 teams in defensive rebound percentage; the Sixers aren’t converting those at a high rate (10.3 ppg), but they are getting more chances than you might think.

  • The Knicks are 11th in field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage, third in three-point percentage but are still second in offensive rating in the playoffs. That shows the formula is flawed but they are thriving thanks to low turnovers and second-chance points.

  • Six Knicks are averaging double figures; three Sixers are averaging double figures. Lowry is 3rd with (11.7). The problem is, Embiid and (Tyrese) Maxey are averaging 68.7 PPG. When you think of duos like them - you are trying to hold them to 50-60 points in a game. Embiid is shooting at 47 percent overall, and Maxey is at 50 percent. Can you slow them down a little bit better? Brunson has now increased scoring (28 PPG), but still at just a 35 percent clip.

  • For all the talk, the Sixers are averaging just (2.4) more free-throw attempts than the Knicks.

  • When it comes to hustle points, the Knicks have excelled in second-chance points (first overall) and fast break points (second overall). They are doing fairly well scoring in the paint (sixth).

  • Philadelphia is first in offensive rating for the playoffs, which means the Knicks are last in the playoff standings for that mark; that seems strange.

** This series is really tight as we get to Game 4; just one point separates the teams after three games.