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Sixers can’t hold early lead as Joel Embiid and co. limp home in Game 1 vs. Knicks

NEW YORK — The Sixers dominated the first five minutes of their opening round playoff game with the New York Knicks so much Saturday that it looked like they might sweep the best-of-7 series.

They played MVP candidate Jalen Brunson rough enough to win, Joel Embiid took control and the Sixers quickly built a large lead.

But the Knicks stayed the course, taking over the second quarter and finishing with a vengeance, Josh Hart bombing three triples in the final frame to produce a 111-104 victory at Madison Square Garden.

Embiid tweaked his oft-injured left knee again yet finished with 29 points, eight boards and six assists. Tyrese Maxey added 33 points.

But as Nick Nurse said postgame, the Sixers having been hammered on the boards most of the evening, it was more than just the lack of board work that did them in.

Hart had 22 points and 13 rebounds, his fellow Villanova grad Brunson 22 points on 26 shots.

“It’s definitely encouraging,” Hart said of the Knicks taking a hard-fought 1-0 series lead. “The rebounding, that’s something we pride ourselves on.”

Backup big man Mitchell Robinson made Embiid work on all of his touches and contributed eight points, a dozen boards, four blocked shots and two critical free throws. Miles McBride, who has played well against the Sixers, contributed 21 points off the bench.

After the game, the first order of business was the health of Embiid, who played 36 minutes. Embiid got hurt on an All-Star game play in which he threw the ball off the backboard, grabbed the carom and dunked. Unfortunately, he landed awkwardly on the left leg, exiting with less than three minutes remaining in the first half.

Embiid is apparently OK, having returned after the break. Nurse doesn’t think a game off would be that much of a benefit for the big guy who has had two surgeries on that knee.

“I don’t think so,” Nurse said. “He’s really a warrior and he’s battling, and I think he absolutely wants to play. Let’s see how he turns out tonight.”

Shutting Embiid down for any length of time in this series would be hazardous to the playoff health of the Sixers. They were outscored by 21 points when he was sidelined. Nurse blamed it on breakdowns.

“Well, we had another one of those second quarter starts where we didn’t guard anybody,” Nurse said. “We had a hell of a first quarter, and the second quarter is off to a really bad start.”

The Knicks weathered that quick Sixers start that produced an 18-5 lead and began grinding their way back into the contest on home court. They did exactly what the Sixers figured they would do, pushing the pace to New York Minute-quick.

Hart drilled a 3-pointer to start the game. Embiid answered with a triple and a reverse layup that turned into a three-point play for a 6-3 lead. Brunson made a jumper, but Embiid posted up and finished another three-point play for a 9-5 advantage.

That set the back-and-forth tone for the night. That and the suddenly trailing Knicks forcing aimless three-pointers. But in a game of runs, the Knicks scored eight straight points to rock the Garden.

Embiid had 15 points, playing the entire first quarter to stake the Sixers to a 34-25 lead. But by the time they walked off at the break, the Knicks were comfortably ahead of the Sixers, thanks to a 33-12 margin in the second frame.

Comfortably, as in a 12-point lead. Comfortably as in watching Embiid, who scored almost half of the Sixers’ points in the early going, exiting. Exhausted and limping slightly, Embiid couldn’t get to the locker room quickly enough.

With Maxey beating the Knicks off the dribble, the Sixers outscored the Knicks, 36-21, in the third quarter to take an 82-79 lead into the final frame.

Even when the Sixers played tougher defense in the fourth quarter, Villanova product Hart stepped up with the triples. That rocked the Garden, and the Knicks fed off the emotion. The crowd roared each time Robinson went toe-to-toe with McBride, who took a beating and dished off some bumps of his own.

Kyle Lowry scored 18 points, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range. But the 76ers were just 12-for-35 (34.3 percent) from deep. Tobias Harris was limited to seven points, but nine rebounds, in 31 minutes.

Play-in game hero Nic Batum had three points and was a minus-20 in 26 bench minutes. Paul Reed was a minus-21 in 11 minutes.

Among the bench players stepping up for the Knicks was Bogdan Bogdanovic, who had 14 points, seven rebounds and was a plus-27 in 25 minutes.


Source: Berkshire mont

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