Sixers' Joel Embiid guarantees playoff series win over Knicks despite 0-2 hole


April 23 (UPI) -- Reigning MVP Joel Embiid buried his head in his hand before guaranteeing that his Philadelphia 76ers will overcome an 0-2 series deficit and beat the New York Knicks in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Embiid, who missed a game-tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer, scored 34 points in the 76ers' 104-101 Game 2 loss Monday at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The 76ers outshot their foes 42.9% to 40.7% and led by as many as 10 points, but could not hold on to tie the series. They led by five with 47 seconds remaining. The Knicks then scored eight unanswered to end the game.

The best-of-seven series will now head to Philadelphia for Game 3 and Game 4, on Thursday and Sunday, respectively.

"We're good," Embiid told reporters. "We're going to win this series. We are going to win this. We know what we gotta fix. We did a better job [Monday], so we are going to fix it.

"We are the better team and we are going to keep fighting."

Embiid scored 12 points over the first 12 minutes to help the 76ers take a 25-18 lead into the second quarter. Knicks forward Josh Hart answered with a dozen points over the next 12 minutes. The Knicks outscored the 76ers 31-28 in the second, but still trailed 53-49 at the break.

Embiid scored 13 in the third, but the Knicks outscored the 76ers 30-21 in the quarter to take a 79-74 lead into the fourth. They ended the quarter on a 9-2 run and kept momentum until the 76ers used a 12-2 run to take a 101-96 lead with 46 seconds remaining in regulation.

Knicks guard Jalen Brunson hit the rim and got a friendly bounce on a pull-up 3-pointer on the next possession, cutting the deficit to two points. Hart then stole the ball from 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey. Knicks guard Donte DiVencenzo drained another 3-pointer at the top of the arc about four seconds later for a 102-101 lead with 13 seconds remaining.

Maxey missed on a go-ahead layup attempt on the next possession. Knicks big man OG Anunoby then made two free throws to push the lead to three.

Maxey passed off to Embiid on the right side on the game's final possession. The star center launched his long 3-pointer at the buzzer, but the shot hit the back of the rim, resulting in a Game 2 loss and 0-2 series deficit.

"There have been some pretty wild finishes, but that was right up there with the best of them," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. "That shows you what the playoffs are all about. Oftentimes, it's a hustle play here, a hustle play there, just finding a way to win."

Embiid made 12 of 29 shots and collected 10 rebounds and six assists for the 76ers. Maxey totaled a game-high 35 points, with 10 assists and nine rebounds.

Brunson totaled 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Knicks. Hart logged 21 points and 15 rebounds in the victory.

"We played really well, did a lot of great things and did better in a bunch of areas," 76ers coach Nick Nurse said. "It's obviously difficult when it's so close and you kind of give it away at the end. It's obviously difficult in these circumstances.

"This makes the series a little longer."

The No. 2 Knicks will face the No. 7 76ers in Game 3 at 7:30 p.m. EDT Thursday in Philadelphia.

The winner of the Knicks-76ers series will meet No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks or No. 6 Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Bucks beat the Pacers 109-94 on Sunday to take a 1-0 lead in the series. They will host Game 2 at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in Milwaukee.