PHILADELPHIA — It was almost the perfect trip for Jalen Brunson. He enjoyed two off days near his hometown, staying in the City of Brotherly Love as it celebrates Brunson’s favorite football team.
The Eagles are everywhere in Philadelphia ahead of the Super Bowl. On billboards. On hats. In Dunkin’ Donuts.
On Wednesday, Villanova retired Brunson’s jersey and honored his two championships. At the same time, the Knicks traded for his friend and former Villanova teammate — Josh Hart — and Brunson couldn’t contain his joy at the news.
“I just can’t wait to get him on the court,” Brunson said.
When Brunson finally got on the Sixers’ court Friday night, he put on a show. At least in the beginning. Twenty points for Brunson in the first quarter.
It was going great. Then the fourth quarter happened.
The Sixers went heavy on zone defense, stifling Brunson and sending the Knicks’ offense into the freezer. Brunson still managed 30 points with nine assists, but, like the rest of his teammates, couldn’t crack Doc Rivers’ zone when it mattered most. The Knicks (30-27) managed just five points in the final six minutes — and just 15 overall in the fourth quarter — as Joel Embiid punished them on the other end in Philadelphia’s 119-108 victory.
“The zone slowed us down a bit,” Julius Randle acknowledged.
Embiid was too much. Knicks centers Jericho Sims and Isaiah Hartenstein dedicated their bodies and personal fouls to fighting the MVP candidate, but he dropped 35 points and 11 boards on 14-of-18 shooting.
Embiid also nailed the biggest bucket of the night, an and-1 pull-up with 1:36 left to take a six-point lead.
“The hard thing is the fouls, you just got to fight that urge to reach in,” Thibodeau said. “He’s good at drawing fouls. And then I thought there were a number of plays where we had the second defender there and he scored over us. The fourth quarter we could’ve done better.”
With the newly-acquired Hart watching in street clothes from the bench (he passed the physical but arrived late from New York), the Knicks’ snapped their two-game winning streak while doubling Philadelphia’s turnovers. It was a bit of revenge for the Sixers, who lost to the Knicks on Sunday at MSG.
Then on Friday, Philly (35-19) got 20 points and 12 assists from James Harden, plus 27 points off the bench from Tyrese Maxey.
Brunson’s trip didn’t end so great.
“We need to win,” Brunson said. “That’s as simple as that. It’s great to compete but we want to win.”
Source: Berkshire mont
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