Knicks' bench brings the energy in 'resilient' Game 1 win over 76ers: 'We needed everyone'

Playing in front of a raucous Madison Square Garden crowd, the Knicks were unable to feed off that energy in the early minutes of Game 1 on Saturday, as the Philadelphia 76ers jumped out to an 18-7 lead. That lead grew to 31-19 as New York’s first unit struggled to find consistency.

But a three-man bench unit of Miles McBride, Mitchell Robinson, and Bojan Bogdanovic helped turn things around, as the Knicks stormed back to take a 12-point lead at the break.

And when it was the Sixers’ turn to go on a run to retake the lead, it was that bench unit, once again, rising to the occasion, steadying the ship as New York went on to a 111-104 Game 1 win.

The trio of McBride, Robinson, and Bogdanovic combined for 42 points, 22 rebounds, and 8-for-13 three-point shooting.

“We all just got in there and got it going,” Robinson said.

“We had to dig out of the hole to start the game,” Tom Thibodeau said afterwards. “The rebounding was big. We had to withstand—we started slowly, and we started the third quarter slowly, but we found a way to win.”

“We started the game slowly, and I thought it changed when the energy of the bench came in,” Thibodeau added later. “We need everyone, so tonight it was the bench. You’ve got to win games different ways.”

McBride was perhaps the hero of the night, scoring 21 points on 5-of-7 three-point shooting. He also played his typical lockdown defense on Tyrese Maxey.

“Huge,” Thibodeau said of McBride’s play. “It’s not just the shot-making, but it’s the energy, it’s the defense, it’s the hustle. And that goes a long way.”

“I think we just wanted to come in and shift the momentum, get the ball up the floor and make sure we were getting shots first,” said McBride. “I think we were just able to move the ball around and hit shots.”

The Game 1 win, while there is plenty to clean up, proved one important factor for the Knicks: The team can find a way to win without Jalen Brunson being Superman every night. Brunson was just 8-of-26 from the field, as the starters struggled as a whole.

One starter who did have a nice game, though, was Josh Hart, who scored 22 points and was 4-of-8 from beyond the arc.

“I don’t want to overlook his contribution, because he was a monster throughout,” Thibodeau said of Hart. “Big rebounds, tough defense, hustle plays, big shots at the end, coming up with loose balls, and that’s what this is. You’ve got to show toughness.”

Hart said after the game that he was proud of the way the Knicks fought back, but he hopes things don’t start quite the same way in Monday’s Game 2.

“Starters, we’ve got to bring energy. We’ve got to do a better job to start the game and to start the third quarter,” Hart said. “Can’t wait til we’re down 10 to start playing, so that’s something that we’ll definitely talk about [on Sunday], but we’re resilient.

“I guess we just like making it tough for ourselves.”