Sixers give ultimate respect to Jalen Brunson, Knicks ahead of Round 1

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Philadelphia 76ers will have their hands full as they get set to take on the New York Knicks in Round 1 of the playoffs. New York won 50 games and earned the No. 2 seed thanks to strong defense and a budding superstar.

Jalen Brunson is somebody who can score in a variety of ways. Whether it be a 3-point barrage and going to work that way or it’s with him fearlessly driving into the lane and finishing over taller defenders, Brunson is a tough cover and Philadelphia will have to prepare for him.

“He’s a great player,” coach Nick Nurse said of Brunson on Friday at practice. “We’re gonna try and make him work. We’ve got a lot of guys that will probably end up spending time on him and guarding him. Obviously, we’ve done a few different things with him through the course of the year. A lot of different schemes and stuff that we got ready to go. So that’s where it starts, right? We gotta be ready.”

On the season, Brunson averaged 28.7 points, 6.7 assists, and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 40.1% from deep. He is also capable of scoring big numbers. He had 61 points on March 29 against the San Antonio Spurs. In the final five games of the season, he averaged 30.5 points and 7.6 assists and shot 47.5% from deep to help New York earn the No. 2 seed.

“The guy’s had an unbelievable season, but he’s had some really unbelievable games and he does it in a lot of ways,” Nurse added. “He’s gonna just score, right? And hit the 3-ball, he’s gonna draw fouls, he’s gonna be out there the whole game. All that stuff so he’s, again, he’s a superstar in this league, and we gotta get our guys ready to guard him.”

The Sixers have a lot of defenders they can throw at Brunson. From guys like Kyle Lowry to Tobias Harris to Kelly Oubre Jr., the Sixers will certainly have their options against him. Even Tyrese Maxey has continued to make strides as a defensive option.

The biggest thing is just containing him. There isn’t a real pace that Brunson prefers. He plays at his own pace and plays everything out in his mind.

“I think that he’s unique in that he’ll play in any pace that he feels is necessary,” Nurse added. “There’s a lot of times when he’s got the ball and he’s throwing it ahead and pushing pace which they, obviously, did to us a couple times. We’ve been talking about that for weeks. That’s high on a lot of team’s board against us.”

Opposing teams will do everything they can to avoid Joel Embiid in the half-court. So there is a chance that Brunson will want to push the ball and get out in transition, and the Sixers will be ready for that, but Philadelphia just wants to contain Brunson in any setting.

“Like, let’s get it up the floor and try to attack the rim before Joel’s back so we gotta certainly be great in our transition defense, but there’s long segments of the game, too when he’s gonna walk it up and get the pieces exactly in place and they’re gonna give him space and he’s gonna go to work so it goes in almost two extremes and everywhere in between with him,” Nurse finished. “Listen, I’m not–controlling pace is not like–I just wanna make sure we’re back if it’s fast and I wanna make sure we’re making him work if it’s slow.”

Story originally appeared on Sixers Wire