The Knicks defeated the Sixers in Game 1 behind a barrage of rebounds and three-pointers. What will Game 2 hold and how should New York adapt?

In a back-and-forth contest full of rollercoaster runs where both teams would secure double-digit leads, the New York Knicks managed to grind out a 111-104 victory against the Philadelphia 76ers in their first game of the series. The opening matchup was absolutely intense, nail-biting and full of grit. The crowd at Madison Square Garden was loud and energetic all night long, especially after New York secured the victory.

Game 2 is back at The Garden tonight at 7:30 P.M. EST and if it’s anything like Game 1, this match-up will have New York fans sitting at the edge of their seat. Let’s take a look together at the biggest takeaways from Game 1 and the adjustments the Knicks can make for the future.

1. The bench unit came to the rescue, the Deuce was loose!

In an unexpected twist, all five Knicks starters finished the game in the negative column for +/-. After trailing to start the game, Tom Thibodeau had to take charge and tell his bench unit to suit up. It’s safe to say that the second unit was a real game-changer.

None were bigger than Miles McBride. Deuce had phenomenal movement, slaughtering his opponents behind the arc, and clamping his matchup on a spectacular defensive level (notably Tyrese Maxey). He finished the game with 21 points on 5-7  shooting from deep and +37 in the (+/-) column!

Bojan Bogdanović also contributed to the Knicks’ first win of the series. He rained down much-needed threes and was also seen on the lookout for rebounds. He finished the game with 13 points (three treys) and seven rebounds.

And of course, Mitchell Robinson, a strong part of the second unit now due to his recent return after his ankle injury. We’ll get more into detail on his stellar play later on.

2. A slow start for the Knicks, an unusual night for Jalen Brunson

Saturday’s first game of the series featured an extremely slow, undesirable start for the Knicks. It was unfortunately clear as daylight that the 76ers took control in the first quarter (34-25). Not only were the Knicks struggling on defense, but they were also unable to connect on their shots. More specifically, they shot a depleting 7-22 from the field and 3-9 from three in the first.

The 76ers were executing their offense and Joel Embiid was extremely malicious on the attacking front with 15 points. He sunk the first nine points for his team as if it was effortless for him. Their ball movement was flowing, which led to a major striking difference between them and the Knicks. Philadelphia was shooting 55.0% from the field and 45.5% from three.

And to make matters worse, Jalen Brunson was extremely inefficient, which was very atypical of him. He managed to lead the Knicks in the first quarter with seven points but off an ineffective 2-8 attempts made from the field. It makes sense then to say that the 76ers did a great job of limiting the Knicks’ star guard. JB finished the game with a total of 22 points on an unfortunate 8-26 shooting split from the field, including 1-6 from three.

3. Mitchell Robinson and Josh Hart were everywhere

Both Mitch’s rebounding prowess and defensive tenacity had a hold on the 76ers. Even with his limited minutes, he really was out of this world on Saturday night. To put things into perspective, Embiid shot only 2-11 (18%) against Mitch whereas against Isaiah Hartenstein he was 5-8 (63%) and 1-2 (50%) against OG Anunoby, according to Tommy Beer.

The best qualities of Robinson’s performance were the number of turnovers he forced over the 76ers, his stylish put-back points and his awareness. The Block Ness monster finished with 12 rebounds, eight points, four blocks, and one steal. In his 30 minutes of gameplay off the bench, I think many would agree that his performance was incredibly lethal and impactful in helping the Knicks maintain the lead.

As for Josh Hart, what can I say? He was the heart of the final quarter. His contributions were one of the most important factors in their first win of the series. In his final 12 minutes of gameplay, he capped off New York’s win with 13 points (3-4 from three), four rebounds and a +10 in the (+/-) column. His fuel seemed to never run out. He was seen on countless plays running hard on the fast break, always eager for more points. You can tell he was hungry for that first win of the series. Overall, he posted a double-double (22 points and 13 rebounds with four threes and two assists).

And certainly, I have not forgotten Hart’s unbelievable aptitude for rebounding. He secured the Knicks’ most rebounds as the team demolished the 76ers on the glass.

Future Adjustments for the Knicks

With the Knicks still on the line for more games against the 76ers, surely there are future adjustments that they can always make.

I think the biggest adjustment that screams at me is how much better JB can be since we’re all aware of his potential. After having an inefficient shooting night, you cannot pin it all on him since the 76ers, primarily Kelly Oubre Jr. and Nicolas Batum, did a great job of defending him. It was clear that they were restricting most of his drives into the key. He also committed five turnovers, which is completely unlike him. So, you have to think, how can Brunson move forward with this?

I believe that the Knicks should try to trap Maxey into defending JB as much as they can. At the very least, this would be a fair matchup of two six-foot guards going head-to-head. It’s not to say that Brunson was completely woeful out there, but he did start to show more of his characteristic self near the end of the game. The biggest being his feed into Hart’s hands who drained the dagger three and doubled their lead in the final quarter. He didn’t force things, he just did what any good, unselfish team leader would do: look for the open man.

So perhaps, with the help of JB’s teammates helping to fend off the 76ers’ defense and JB just sticking to being an all-around efficient player by getting to his money-spots and nailing them down, he can return to his usual star-made self for the Knicks’ playoffs.

I also had the wonderful chance of gathering input on this topic from our very own TKW contributor, Candace Pedraza, and our NBA stats analyst, Evan Cole.

Pedraza, on top of making the same note as I did on JB, offered numerous insights. She pointed first to how much more decisive the Knicks could’ve been in order to not feel like they were in a hurry to dig themselves out of the hole they made, especially in the first quarter. Secondly, she made note of how tremendous Hart was late in the game despite the fact that he could have caught fire even earlier by being unhesitant with the good looks he got earlier in the game. She also raised the idea that Mitch should come in sooner for iHart since his athletic frame is a lot more compatible with defending Embiid’s strength and size. His superb rebounding and second-chance points show how impactful he can be.

On the other hand, Cole mentioned several potential adjustments: 1.) How Thibodeau should have a quicker trigger on his decision-making for bringing Deuce in for Donte DiVincenzo and Mitch for iHart due to the impact they both brought on Saturday. 2.) The possibility that Deuce could be a better matchup for Maxey instead of OG Anunoby from the get-go since it appeared that Deuce was just slightly more effective in the first game, but without too much of an overreaction on this. 3.) A strong emphasis on wanting to see the Knicks gather more high post or free-throw line touches against the Sixers’ established zone. 4.) How much better Brunson was when he was switching instead of hedging whenever the Sixers would return to their guard-on-guard screening, which involved Maxey and Kyle Lowry trying to place Brunson in the middle of the action.

And the most agreeable one yet between all three of us: the improvements Brunson can make from better decision-making, which can help him navigate his way through the Sixers’ defense, against Oubre’s and Batum’s clamps in particular.

All in all, it’s safe to say that Knicks fans remain ecstatic that the squad grabbed the first win of the series. But it’s adjustments like these that can make the ‘Bockers go far in this year’s playoff run.

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