Sixers observations

3 observations after Brunson scores 47, puts Sixers on the brink of elimination 

NBC Universal, Inc.

Jalen Brunson was heroic Sunday afternoon in leading the Knicks to within one game of Round 2.

Meanwhile, the Sixers' offense was frigid and their defensive rebounding was abysmal down the stretch of a 97-92 Game 4 defeat at Wells Fargo Center.

Brunson delivered a second consecutive massive performance, scoring 47 points and dishing out 10 assists. 

Joel Embiid recorded 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Tyrese Maxey had 23 points, six rebounds and six assists.

The Sixers will need to win Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden to stave off a first-round elimination.

Here are observations on their Game 4 loss:

Embiid propels strong start

Embiid followed up his 50-point Game 3 by posting the Sixers’ first four points Sunday, jamming in a second-chance slam and scoring inside vs. Isaiah Hartenstein. He also thew a long-distance bounce pass that set Tobias Harris up for an early fast-break dunk. 

Brunson carried over the momentum from his 39-point, 13-assist Game 3, making his first three field goals and doing sharp mid-range work, but the Knicks got almost nothing from their supporting cast in the first quarter. 

The Sixers initially featured Embiid often at the top of the key and continued to use Kyle Lowry’s skills as a screener for both of their All-Stars. Late in the shot clock, Embiid isolations and post-ups remained a good option.

While the Sixers began 1 for 10 from three-point range, Embiid conducted their offense impressively in the first quarter. The Sixers scored the day’s first 10 points in the paint and Maxey became their last starter to score with a step-back jumper that gave them a 20-13 lead. Embiid’s passing was both clever and prudent in his 10-point, six-rebound, four-assist first period. He made a sweet assist to Harris at the rim after the veteran forward slipped free off of a Nicolas Batum back screen. 

As has been the case all series, the Sixers started Game 4 looking (and performing) significantly better than the Knicks with Embiid on the court. 

Sixers’ bench doesn’t provide much at all  

De’Anthony Melton subbed in for his first action of the series late in the first quarter, replacing Lowry and sharing a backcourt with Cameron Payne.

The Sixers’ bench was raring to celebrate Melton's catch-and-shoot three on the final play of the first period, but his jumper went in and out. Melton played seven minutes Sunday and had no points, a rebound and an assist.

Precious Achiuwa entered about two minutes into the second quarter as the backup big man replacement for Mitchell Robinson (out with a sprained left ankle). Right away, Paul Reed tried to drive at him and lost the ball out of bounds. The Sixers’ Embiid-less stint to begin the second quarter was poor. 

The Sixers’ 10-point edge after the first quarter was down to four when head coach Nick Nurse called timeout and Embiid checked back in. His presence didn’t instantaneously turn the tide. A big OG Anunoby dunk excited the sizable contingent of Knicks fans in the building. Brunson drained a difficult fadeaway jumper over Maxey for two of his 23 first-half points. He notched seven of the Knicks’ nine assists before halftime, too. 

Bojan Bogdanovic exited with a left ankle contusion early in the second quarter, which essentially cut the Knicks’ bench down to two players. Miles McBride stepped up with two three-point shots late in the second quarter, but Maxey produced several strong answers to New York buckets. 

Though visibly frustrated by a couple of no-calls on his drives, Maxey recognized the Sixers needed him to increase his aggression and tallied 10 points in the second period, including a tricky baseline jumper over McBride. 

Collectively, the Sixers’ four-man second unit (which did not include Buddy Hield) began 0 for 8 from the floor. Those struggles again meant the Sixers were especially reliant on their stars. 

Sixers can't find any buckets down the stretch  

Maxey made an attack-minded start to the third quarter, Kelly Oubre Jr. (19 points) sunk a corner three, and Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau asked for timeout. 

Lowry’s scrappiness was a huge plus during a 10-0 Sixers run. Out of New York’s timeout, he drew a foul against Hartenstein with a whole-hearted box-out. Soon after that, he earned the Sixers a stop by closely guarding Josh Hart and absorbing an elbow to the face. Offensively, Lowry displayed his knack for seeking out quick-hitting passes while avoiding bad risks. He finished with seven assists and zero turnovers. 

The Knicks eventually got back on track. The Sixers committed a few sloppy turnovers and the game took on a helter-skelter complexion that favored New York. While the Sixers went up 70-63 on an Oubre three, Donte DiVincenzo responded with two straight triples. After back-to-back Hart offensive rebounds, Brunson dropped an and-one floater in on Melton and the Knicks entered the fourth quarter with a one-point advantage.

Payne chipped in five points early in the fourth, but the Sixers couldn't sustain a positive stretch. Brunson was out briefly at the start of the fourth, then re-entered and somehow made an incredibly tough one-legged runner over Embiid as the shot click expired. Brunson deserves immense credit for his individual brilliance in hauling the Knicks to victory.

By that point, the game felt destined for a tense, tight conclusion and every miscue stung a bit more for the Sixers. Maxey let a defensive rebound slip from his hands, which Brunson capitalized on with a driving layup. Oubre fouled McBride on a three-point attempt. The Knicks dialed up their defensive pressure and the Sixers were too selfless and tentative, committing a shot-clock violation.

New York snagged offensive board after offensive board, but they failed to cash in on most of those extra opportunities. However, the Sixers kept coming up empty.

They couldn't generate any looks near the paint, missed jumper after jumper, and endured a painful drought. As a team, the Sixers did not score from the 5:04 mark of the fourth until an Embiid free throw with 54.3 seconds left.

From there, the Sixers couldn't find an improbable path back to win. Embiid was sure he got fouled on a layup with around 23 seconds left, but no whistle blew. Hart then helped out with two missed free throws, but the Sixers ultimately did not have another made field goal in them.

They'll obviously need a much better offensive showing in New York to keep their season alive.

Contact Us