Sixers Slip in Game 1: Absent Bench Fails Mad Maxey & Injured Embiid

By Chip Bayless (click Howie for more Chip)




Joel Embiid looked like a completely different player than he looked like during the Sixers play-in game against the Heat in the first quarter of Game 1 against the Knicks. The former MVP had 15 points and clearly led the Sixers’ effort on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.

At the 10:55 mark in the 2nd quarter though, Josh Hart nailed a three and made it a three point game without Jalen Brunson or Joel Embiid on the floor.

New York ended up tying the game at 46, and the Knicks went on a 10-0 run from there as the score sat at 46-56 in favor of the Knicks with 46 seconds left in the first half.

The story of the first half though was Joel Embiid leaving for the locker room after an impressive one-handed dunk. While Embiid showed decent lift and explosiveness on the dunk, the ending looked like it cost him dearly as he landed with his weight almost squarely on his bad knee due to some other feet and ankles in the way of his other leg following the throw-down.

It is worth noting that Embiid has only dunked 19 times all season, so there is a chance that either keeping the big man from landing with all that weight is critical to keeping him healthy, and/or there’s a chance that we are unfortunately already starting to see the best and most likeable Sixers star since Allen Iverson starting to age. After all, Embiid has shot below 50% in eight consecutive playoff games now.

While Embiid was on the floor when the Sixers came back out, Nick Nurse said coming out of halftime that he was honestly unsure about the exact health of the Sixers’ star. Some magic from Tyrese Maxey on an impressive scoop and score layup following his own mishandle got the score back to 56-67 in the 9th minute of the 3rd. Then Maxey dished the ball to a wide-open Kyle Lowry on the next possession to hit a nice three, getting the Sixers within eight points of the Knicks and forcing a New York time out.

Maxey later cut the lead to five while knifing through the defense with an impressive euro-step reverse layup, only to follow that up with a driving floater that felt like it hung in the air for minutes, which swished right through the center of the net, making the score 66-69 and forcing another Knicks timeout as the New York defense was clearly playing pressed and panicked with the score within three points.

Maxey looked unstoppable going to the rim all night, and he really turned it on in the third quarter, scoring 12 points during the period to notch his total at the time at 24. He also did a great job of staying in Brunson’s face and forcing him to work as much as possible, playing a very physical game throughout.

As the Knicks dared Embiid to hit a three, Embiid rose to the challenge and tied the game at 69 just before the five-minute mark in the third quarter.

After a corner three from Oubre to cap off a 24-5 Sixers run, the 76ers found themselves back up in the game, 78-72. While Embiid was a huge reason Philadelphia dominated the 3rd quarter with his long-distance and accurate passes (including a 40-foot dime to Kelly Oubre Jr.) combined with making the right decision seemingly every time he had the ball, he was noticeably wincing and laboring.

The Knicks went on scoring barrage of their own though to start the fourth quarter and swung the score back in their favor. Following an amazingly-focused defensive effort, the Sixers forced a 24-second shot clock violation on New York and got the ball back, resulting in Embiid foul shots to set the score at 88-91 with the Knicks leading.

Oubre made phenomenal steal and passed to Maxey for an easy 2-1 layup right underneath the basket, making it a one-point game.

Following some back and forth and some unfortunate threes from Josh Hart, Embiid shot two free throws to get the Sixers back within four points of the Knicks, but the Knicks banged a clutch three immediately afterwards.

Lowry answered with a clutch three-pointer, his fourth of the night, to get the score to 100-104. Hart tried another three-pointer from distance under duress and unfortunately nailed it, as he was on fire the entire game. Maxey had a beautiful drive for a quick bucket next, setting the score at 102-107.

Then, Mitchell Robinson, one of the Knicks worst free throw shooters, nailed both his FTs. Maxey sprinted as quickly as he could to the basket and hit another layup with another nice finish, but the Knicks simply took too much time off the clock and got an offensive rebound to end the game.

Maxey led the 76ers in points on the night with 33 to go with four assists, two boards, and two blocks. But the story of the game was New York outscoring Philadelphia 32-22 in the fourth quarter to come out with the victory at home.

If you were to blame one particular aspect, its the 76ers’ bench who likely deserves most of the blame. While McBride had 21 off the bench and Bogdanovic scored 13 for the Knicks, the entire Philly bench combined for just seven points.

It didn’t help that the Knicks showed a higher level of tenacity on both ends of the glass and out-rebounded the 76ers 54-33.

If the Sixers want a win Monday night, their fresh bench players will need to play with the same level of effort as their injured stars.

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