In-depth breakdown of Knicks' Game 1 win over 76ers, look ahead to Game 2

How did the Knicks handle the Sixers' zone defense in Game 1? How did the Sixers approach Jalen Brunson in the pick-and-roll?

Brendan Brown breaks it all down as the teams prepare for Game 2 on Monday.


1. Knicks starters: (22-of-62 35.4 FG percentage) (8-of-22 36.3 3PT FG percentage) (17-out-20 85 FT percentage)

Knicks bench: (14-of-29 48.2 FG percentage) (8-of-13 61.5 3PT percentage) (6-of-8 75 FT percentage) (22 rebounds, 8 offensive) (6 assists/1 turnover)

BROWN: "You could see in the second quarter that (Mitchell Robinson) was a better matchup for (Joel) Embiid. He made him catch further out on left side post-ups. He just made him work harder. Just a bigger presence.

"When your bench outscores the other bench 42-7, you’ve thrown a perfect game of sorts. After a sluggish first quarter, (Bojan) Bogdanovic (six pts) and (Miles) McBride (five pts) both got going to get the game tied back up at 36. The building was back into the game, which was a major at the time.

"Also, to get eight FTAs in a playoff coming from the bench is very good. Bench also had 14 points in the fourth quarter. Just great games from all three players (Bogdanovic, McBride, Robinson)."

2. Fourth quarter three-point shooting: Sixers 2-for-8; Knicks 6-for-9

BROWN: "The Sixers missed their first six three-point attempts in the fourth quarter. They took five threes between the 10 and six-minute mark and missed them all. Forcing five threes in (a four-minute span) is a combination of good defense and a tight or tired opponent.

"The Knicks were 26th in the NBA (26.4 percent) in regular season clutch three-point shooting. And that’s why you can throw out some numbers when it comes to the playoffs. One number stood up: (Josh) Hart is the best NYK clutch shooter (64 percent). He made the two huge threes with under five minutes, one right before the five-minute mark (5:08) and adds two free-throws. If the Sixers are leaving him late, he has to shoot."



BROWN: "Speaking of Hart, the Sixers showed two different zone looks - an extended 2-3, and a hybrid 3-2 that they used later in the second half. Hart helped the Knicks against the Sixers’ zone. I think the Knicks have generally handled zone well this year. They have an excellent shallow cut pattern; Brunson to the wing with good timing, spacing and cutting.

"The 3-2 look was hard to read at different times. The top man could pick up Brunson way out, and then the two wings were reading that. It essentially was like a soft trap, while playing zone. Or a hybrid. I think that (Nick) Nurse may have stayed in this for too long. The more the Knicks looked at it, Hart and OG Anunoby had a lot of space on the weakside (left side of the floor). If the idea was to have someone other than Brunson take the big clutch shots, that part worked. The Sixers scouting could have relied on some analytics, breakdowns, etc. But, as noted earlier, Hart is the best Knicks clutch shooter (64 percent in regular season). I believe that since the all-star break, he has played closeout situations a little bit better game by game; he probes with a couple of dribbles and can make plays and make short midrange jumpers. And he made big shots in Game 1 (as noted above)."


BROWN: "Embiid and Tyrese Maxey combined to score 62 points on 22-of-48, 45.8 FG percentage (5-of-17, 29.4 3PT FG percentage, 13-of-14, 92.8 FT percentage). Their teammates combined to score 42 points on 14-of-33 42.4 FG percentage (7-of-18- 38.8 percent, 7-of-8 87.5 FT percentage)

"Before the series, we said there is a tendency for the Sixers’ main two guys to score, but offense from their teammates could be spotty. Kyle Lowry (18) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (10) were the only other Sixers in double figures. The bench was only 3-for-10, 1-for-5 from three; They had no free-throw attempts.  Oubre Jr took seven shots in 38 minutes. Harris took seven shots in 31 minutes. In contrast, the Knicks had five guys in double figures and two other players with eight. That matters.

"In the first quarter, the Sixers ran their offense with Embiid post-ups on the left side. The Knicks elected to play him straight up, and that did not work. He was testing the knee and I felt that start gave him confidence. In other segments of the game, the Sixers ran fairly simple plays to create mass spacing; they spread the Knicks out and drove the ball to the rim or drove and kicked. Philadelphia is only a middle of the road three-point shooting team (18th this season). They go 12-for-35 in Game 1 and a fair amount were open.

"In the fourth quarter, the Knicks defended well; as noted above, the Sixers missed five straight threes when the game was tight. The Sixers generally played through Embiid the majority of the rest of the game (after the stretch of missed threes). It seemed like they went to that for too long. In playcalling, you might have to get away from him once or twice, and then go back to him. He was 0-5 in the fourth quarter, you know his conditioning is suspect. That played into the Knicks hands; [Robinson] kept going after him. Remember, Nurse, who is a very good coach, is coaching this team for the first time in the playoffs. I think that showed in the fourth."


BROWN: "Brunson’s numbers were off in Game 1 (8-of-26 FG, 1-of-6 3PT, 5-of-6 FTs; 22 pts, seven assists, five turnovers)

"You could see in the 79-73 regular season game that Oubre Jr. is a natural match for Brunson; he has length plus quick enough feet. Oubre Jr. lost him off the ball in a spot or two; but in general terms he was effective, playing him physical and wrapping him up off the ball. Nic Batum saw time on Brunson and bothered him a little; he has length but less quickness (than Oubre Jr.) When switched onto Brunson, Maxey is trying to take away the first dribble move and contain; that’s about what he can do (against Brunson). Lowry will try to time one point of contact and try and slow (Brunson) down. All of them did a decent job in (Brunson’s) isolations; they stayed in front of him; good help in the paint.

"The major strategic move was in Brunson pick-and-rolls. Whether it was an elbow or side pick-and-roll, Embiid was in it. And he was in drop very far away from Brunson. Jalen could have shot wide open 15-footers off the screen because his defender was going over the top. But, with the nature of his game, Brunson kept dribbling at times to get a closer shot. Oubre Jr. or Batum went over the pick, and then chased him down from behind. This was effective; it caused Brunson to alter a couple shots. And this was the game plan. Maxey blocked two shots here in this scenario. Brunson could come out and have a major Game 2; he is a great competitor. But the Sixers have different guys to throw at him in general terms. DeAnthony Melton, who was inactive game 1, presents the 'tackling' defender for Brunson."


BROWN: "The Knicks only had 11 turnovers in Game 1. The first group had rough stretches at the offensive end, but if you’re not turning the ball over and still getting shots at the rim, that’s good. The Sixers are a big fast-break team; any turnover against them is deadly. Getting the 23 offensive rebounds saved the Knicks; [Robinson] had several really big ones. Just like the Cleveland series last year, controlling the glass can control the game; it’s like offensive and defensive line play in the NFL. But if you get into the math, the Knicks having low turnovers stifles the Sixers offense big time.

"Overall, this was a good win for the Knicks. Game could have gone either way. But their execution of some strategic elements in the fourth quarter was just better. Hopefully they can keep getting solid scoring offense out of everyone in the rotation."