Knicks in Six: Historic Series from Jalen Brunson Leads New York to Victory

New York Knicks dispatch Philadelphia 76ers, 4-2, In a Hard-Fought First-Round Series

by Tate Hutchinson

In Game 5 on Tuesday, the Knicks’ Miles McBride hit a clutch jumper to take a strong 96-90 lead with 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter, on the cusp of advancing to the Eastern Conference Semifinals and blowing the roof off of Madison Square Garden. But, as the 76ers’ All-Star guard Tyrese Maxey buried two unbelievable triples and a free throw to send it to overtime, it appeared it just wasn’t the Knicks’ night. Maxey’s 46-point explosion continued into OT, and the Sixers lived to fight another day.

The Knicks entered Game 6 in Philadelphia with a potential elimination game on the line, facing the emphatic boos of the raucous opposing fanbase. Now on the road, New York would have to weather the dual threat of the flaming-hot Maxey and superstar big man Embiid, whose injury recovery only improved as the series went on.

Throughout the series, Jalen Brunson’s record-setting heroics stole the show, but none came in a larger moment than Thursday’s pivotal Game 6. He led the Knicks in scoring in Games 3-5 with 39, 40, and a new NYK record of 47 points, but his massive 41-point, 12-assist masterclass in the series-closing game willed the team to victory.

Brunson’s college teammates, wing players Donte DiVincenzo and Josh Hart joined him in making key contributions throughout the series. The former buried five triples in the clinching game as the team’s second-leading scorer, and the latter resembled Dennis Rodman in Game 6, making key plays, dishing out seven assists, and pulling down an extraordinary fourteen rebounds for his 6’4” stature.

Midseason acquisition OG Anunoby made an outstanding impact on both ends, averaging 15 points a game while being the Knicks’ premier defensive stopper. His defensive skill was able to limit the much larger 7’ Joel Embiid in stints throughout the series, and crucially held Maxey to just 17 points in the closeout game. The rotation rounded out with breakout young guard Miles McBride and big men Isaiah Hartenstein and Mitchell Robinson, each toughing out the Embiid assignment on both offense and defense.

However, the Knicks received some rough news following their victory in Game 4, as backup forward Bojan Bogdanovic suffered a significant foot injury that would cause him to miss time. He now joins star PF Julius Randle on the injury report, requiring season-ending surgery of his own. The Knicks, although slightly more banged up, face an entirely different test in their next playoff series.

After defeating the intimidating 76ers, the Knicks now look to host the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Fresh off a series defeating a banged-up Milwaukee Bucks team in six games, the Pacers’ threat of youth, spacing, and elite speed in transition will hope to wear out the slightly older New York roster. Led by young All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton, 2019 champ Pascal Siakam, and all-around skilled center Myles Turner.

With OG Anunoby tasked with defending his former teammate Siakam and the Knicks’ big man duo protecting the paint, Coach Tom Thibodeau has the personnel to plan a strong defensive scheme to limit transition and offensive rebounding opportunities. For the Knicks to proceed on their road to the NBA Finals, they will need Jalen Brunson to outduel Haliburton at the point guard position and continue on his record-breaking scoring tear.

Photos Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

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