The Knicks sealed their first-round series win against the 76ers thanks to a masterclass from Jalen Brunson and a clutch Josh Hart three.

The much-anticipated Game 6 at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center did more than just live up to expectations. You can call it a tale of two quarters, you can call it a game of runs, as long as you call it an epic finale to one of the best playoff series in recent NBA history. Much like the first five games of the series,  Game Six was a back-and-forth roller coaster that toyed with the emotions of fans on both sides. While NBA fans around the globe were praising this series for being the highest form of basketball artistry, it tested the will and composure of anybody who cared about either team.

While there are some low-hanging comments about all of the fans the Sixers ownership brought in to witness that loss, I am not going to make them. This was a hard-fought battle from every player on the court not named Tobias Harris and there is nothing negative to say about the effort on either side. There is a reason why these games reminded people of a bygone era in the NBA with physical play and intensity with every bucket. This game and this series delivered in a big way and is rightfully being called one of the best playoff series in over a decade.

The Knicks got off to a red-hot start, getting good looks every time down the court and knocking down shots. When the shots didn’t go down, they were almost definitely rebounded by Isaiah Hartenstein or Josh Hart. This energy and effort were infectious and sparked big-time plays on both sides of the ball. The Knicks got off to a 28-9 start and extended their first-quarter lead to as many as 22. However, the Sixers battled back and cut the lead down to 14 by the end of the first and started to get momentum on their side.

Whatever momentum they garnered at the end of the first quarter increased exponentially in the second. In the first quarter, the Knicks came out like a house on fire but it was the Sixers who were guns blazing to start the second. Their run came surprisingly when Embiid was off the court and from the unlikeliest of places. Well, not the unlikeliest because it wasn’t Tobias Harris, but it was Buddy Hield, previously completely out of the rotation, who caught fire. Cam Payne was also entirely unafraid of the moment, pulling up for transition threes and hitting big shots.

The 14-point lead the Knicks went into the quarter with quickly dwindled and when Embiid went back on the court, they were able to completely destroy the Knicks’ defense which had been so strong earlier in the game. Over and over again, the Sixers’ offense went through Embiid on the left block and Hield was open on the right side. It was Philadelphia’s turn to get whatever they wanted while the Knicks failed to execute. The rebounds that Josh Hart pulled down in the first slipped out of his hands in the second. The fast breaks that went down in the first quarter turned into missed dunks as halftime drew closer. The Sixers won the second quarter by an impressive score of 32-15 to come all the way back and take the lead going into the half. Embiid and Hield led the way with 17 points apiece, with five threes for the former Naismith player of the year out of Oklahoma.

If you are a believer in momentum, you would not have given the Knicks a chance once the third quarter started rolling. The Sixers started the second half with a 54-51 lead and were able to get it up to 10 with some hot three-point shooting. The Sixers hit nine threes in the third quarter and scored 29 points, only to be outmatched by the Knicks’ 32 points. The Knicks showed an unbreakable resiliency to fight back when every possible sign pointed to the Sixers running away with it. The score was all tied up at 83 after an OG Anunoby three late in the third.

The fourth quarter was destined for greatness and it did not disappoint. Embiid and Jalen Brunson both sat out to start the fourth which was a calculated risk both coaches were willing to make. This was a high-level chess match from two brilliant coaches, one that Tom Thibodeau was able to win. Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games; that quote was as true tonight as ever. Jalen Brunson took over, as he is oft to do, He had 14 points in the quarter of his total 41 points, while Maxey finally got going for the Sixers.

Brunson did not do it alone, however. Deuce McBride hit a big three with Brunson on the bench while Donte and Josh Hart came up huge consistently in the fourth where they did not step off the court.

There were big moments in the fourth, but none were more explosive than OG detonating over Joel Embiid on a fast break. This performance was representative of the culture and identity this team has built. They were fearless in big moments and ruthless in bigger moments. Every time the Sixers countered, the Knicks punched back in their own right. Whether it was an OG dunk, a Josh Hart rebound, or a DiVincenzo three, all five guys on the court were making plays.

Every Knicks fan had flashbacks when Tyrese Maxey started to get going. The Sixers were also getting moments from Oubre who hit big threes and Nic Batum who turned back the clocks for a putback dunk. Late missed free throws kept the Sixers in it after back-to-back threes from Brunson started to put it away. When push came to shove,  it was none other than Josh Hart who hit the biggest shot of the game. The Sixers have been leaving Hart open all series, and he has been punishing him for it. That punishment came to a conclusion with 30 seconds left in the game where Hart put it away. The Knicks learned their lessons from game 5 and fouled up three on their way to a 118-115 victory.

This performance was a masterclass for what a Thibs-coached team should be. The Knicks were the harder-working team all game long and they were ready late in the game even after their Villanova trio had all played nearly 45 minutes. Four Knicks had 9 or more rebounds including Mitchell Robinson who played great defense on Embiid off the bench and Isaiah Hartenstein who kept the offense afloat during the second-quarter drought. This was the kind of game that fans will remember forever, and it was hopefully just the beginning.

The Knicks will go on to battle Obi Toppin and the Indiana Pacers. So get ready to see highlights of every three Reggie Miller ever hit and Roy Hibbert blocking Carmelo for the next few days as you prepare for the second round. Remember not to get ahead of yourselves by overlooking the Pacers, there is still work to be done. But in the meantime, enjoy this one because I know I will. Go Knicks.

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