NBA playoffs: Knicks advance past Sixers as Jalen Brunson does something not seen since Michael Jordan

The New York Knicks advanced past the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday, and they can primarily thank another signature performance from Jalen Brunson.

The All-Star point guard led his team to a 118-115 win in Game 6, ending a contentious series with a 41-point performance. It was Brunson's third straight 40-plus-point game and fourth straight with at least 37 points. No player had done the latter in the playoffs since Michael Jordan in 1993.

New York will now face the Indiana Pacers, who put away the Milwaukee Bucks earlier Thursday, in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Game 1 is scheduled for Monday at 7:30 p.m. in Madison Square Garden (TNT).

Jalen Brunson headshot
Jalen Brunson
PG - NY - #11
5/2/2024 v. PHI

Putting away the Sixers looked like a much easier task than expected in the first quarter, when the Knicks rocketed out to a 22-point lead, but the Sixers came back and took a lead into halftime. The Knicks later took back control with a nine-point lead late in the fourth quarter, only for the Sixers to again tie it with 35 seconds left.

Cue Josh Hart:

Hart's clutch 3-pointer gave the Knicks the lead and a subsequent basket from Joel Embiid still left the Sixers needing to foul. Donte DiVincenzo and Brunson made four more free throws from there to keep the game out of reach and end the series.

To summarize, it was a very good game for Villanova players.

It was a big game as well from Joel Embiid, who had 39 points on 12-of-25 shooting with 13 rebounds, two assists and five turnovers. He fouled out in the final minute.

If you had told Sixers fans that Embiid dropped 39 while the bench combined for 42 points, they would probably ask you the time for Game 7. Unfortunately, scoreless outings by Tobias Harris and Kyle Lowry left them too much work to make up against a more cohesive Knicks team.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 02: Jalen Brunson #11 of the New York Knicks drives past Nicolas Batum #40 of the Philadelphia 76ers during the third quarter of game six of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center on May 02, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
The Sixers had the momentum, but the Knicks had Jalen Brunson. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

With rotation member Bojan Bogdanovic out for the season with a wrist and foot injuries, the Knicks leaned heavily on their starters to take them across the finish line. Brunson, Hart, DiVincenzo and OG Anunoby all played at least 43 minutes, with DiVincenzo staying on the court the entire game. Mitchell Robinson and Miles McBride were the only bench players to see the floor, scoring a combined five points.

That strategy might have left New York gassed for a Game 7, but it paid off.

It was a fitting end for one of the first round's most eventful series. The Knicks took Games 1 and 2, but only won the latter because of a frantic sequence in which the NBA admitted New York committed multiple fouls to force a turnover. It took a 50-point performance by Embiid for the Sixers to avoid a 3-0 hole, only for Brunson to respond with a 47-point performance in Game 4. Then came a career night from Tyrese Maxey to stave off elimination.

It was a hostile, dramatic series, and the Knicks should be happy it's over.