The Knicks will face Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and the Sixers in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

The New York Knicks ended the regular season strong and were able to secure the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. With the two seed locked up, New York had to wait for the result of the Play-In Tournament game on Wednesday night to see who would be their opponent in the first round. Their draw: the Philadelphia 76ers.

Both the Miami Heat and the Sixers are extremely well coached, have star power in both the frontcourt and backcourt and are more talented than their seeding indicated. After struggling early, Philly was able to overpower Miami in the second half and take the seven-seed, sending them to a Saturday showdown at Madison Square Garden in Game 1 of their series against the Knicks.

Philly Rollercoaster

The Sixers have been consistently a good team for the past handful of seasons, boasting incredible talent. But they have yet to make it to an Eastern Conference Finals despite lofty expectations. After last season, things boiled over with the James Harden drama, the Doc Rivers firing and the rumblings that Joel Embiid would want to be shipped out to a more stable situation. The misfortune continued into this season when the often-injured Embiid hurt his meniscus and was on the shelf for eight weeks, sending the Sixers into a spiral.

Luckily, the 30-year-old center was able to avoid season-ending damage and returned earlier this month. While only playing in 39 games, Embiid has been a monster, posting a career-high 34.7 points per game, to go along with 11 rebounds and a career-high 38.8% from behind the arc. The reigning MVP’s return has been beyond valuable for Philly, as they haven’t lost since he came back and have a 32-8 record when he plays, including their Play-In victory.

Couple Embiid’s dominance with the ascension of Tyrese Maxey and the solid play of Kelly Oubre, Nic Batum, Tobias Harris and co., Philly enters the playoffs the most dangerous they’ve been in the Embiid era. Not to mention they have Nick Nurse leading the charge, who is an upgrade over previous skippers Rivers and Brett Brown.

Different Season

During the regular season, the Knicks won three out of four matchups, holding Philly to under 100 points in all four, including 79 points in two of those. Although Embiid was absent for all but one of those games, holding any team under 100 for four games is very impressive. Obviously, none of that matters now and the postseason is a different animal. Still, it’s definitely encouraging to have evidence that the Knicks are capable of slowing down the Sixers’ attack.

Slowing Down Embiid

It will be interesting to see how Embiid is handled by Tom Thibodeau and what the Knicks will throw at him to keep him at bay. With a full complement of centers available in Mitchell Robinson, Isaiah Hartenstein and even Precious Achiuwa, New York has options. With Embiid being the superstar that he is, it isn’t realistic to think you’re going to completely shut him down. Expect to see a rotation of big frontcourt bodies being thrown at him to try and push him outside and either to get him to give the ball up. Embiid often times exudes Shaq-esque dominance around the rim and if he gets downhill and in a groove, there’s no limit to how many points he can score. Having bigs like Mitch and I-Hart be physical with him is likely the only way to really knock him off his game.

Another interesting approach the Knicks could take is the way the UConn Huskies handled Purdue’s Zach Edey in the National Championship Game. Dan Hurley’s team threw bodies at him, namely Donovan Clingan and Samson Johnson, but didn’t mind if Edey scored 40. As long as they stopped the Boilermakers’ shooters from torching them, they were confident they’d win the game. And they did just that.

In the lone game the Knicks played against Embiid this season, Embiid was very good, scoring 30. But were able to largely limit other players’ production and won the game by 36. Don’t be surprised if Embiid has some insane scoring outputs in this series and the Knicks still win, as the team is smart enough to know they can’t stop him and can prioritize shutting down Maxey and the other talented role players that the Sixers possess.

Advantage Knicks

Looking at the overall scope of the two rosters going head to head, I believe there is more notable star power in Philly but more depth and consistency in New York. Despite Maxey blossoming into a star this season, the Knicks still have the advantage at point guard with Jalen Brunson, who is more of a killer, has more experience and is even accustomed to the Wells Fargo Center from his Villanova days. Embiid clearly is the class of both of these two frontcourts and is always in consideration for the best player in the NBA.

Now, looking at second-level players, I believe Buddy Hield, Kyle Lowry, Oubre and Harris don’t quite stack up to Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart and OG Anunoby. Defensively, OG can handle any of the aforementioned players and force Embiid to try and put the team on his back to victory. Also, out of that bunch, DiVincenzo is the best shooter and if he can get hot like he’s been doing most of the season, there will be an offensive barrage the Knicks go on that will be too much for the Sixers. With the best shooter and defender of this group of guys on both teams, the Knicks prove to be a deeper and more well-rounded unit than Philly.

Prediction: Knicks in 6.

Related Content

»Read: Jalen Brunson Needs MVP Votes

»Read: Jalen Brunson’s Preferred Passing Targets

»Read: Questions Asked And Answered By March Madness