The Knicks Will Always Find Another Way To Break You

The story of the Knicks in the NBA playoffs has mirrored the narrative from New York’s regular season, you watch to behold the ascension of Jalen Brunson. Tenacious is not quite the right word, because it implies pure brutality when part of what makes Brunson’s game incredible to watch is the way ferocity is paired with indelible finesse. He explodes into the paint like a saloon brawl in a classic western, only to deliver a delicate touch shots in front of the rim, leaving everyone—you, me, opposing defenses—to watch in confusion.  

The Knicks won Game 4 of the first round playoff series against the 76ers 97-92, thanks largely to Brunson once again being that dude. He scored a career playoff high 47 points on 18-of-34 shooting while also adding 10 assists and 4 rebounds. The Knicks and Sixers traded the lead for most of the game, but Brunson was key to the Knicks going ahead for good in the fourth quarter off a 6-0 run, including a falling away jumper over the human triage ward, Joel Embiid.  

As phenomenal as Brunson was, watching Game 4 you see why the Knicks as a collective are, to turn a phrase, a big fuckin’ problem. They are relentless in chasing rebounds and scavenging for second or third chance points. They hound you around the floor looking for steals and blocks. This is all the more infuriating for opposing teams like the Sixers considering that Knicks backup center Mitchell Robinson was scratched from the game because of an ankle sprain, Bojan Bogdanovic left in the first quarter after his own ankle injury, and Isaiah Hartenstein sat out the end of the game after collecting his fifth foul in the third quarter. The rest of the Knicks roster just went to work. Brunson left briefly for an injury at the beginning of the fourth quarter but played 43 minutes anyway. OG Anunoby had 16 points and 14 rebounds in 47 minutes and Josh Hart had the wildest statline you could find in 46 minutes: 17 rebounds, five assists and three blocks. He scored only four points off free throws. 

Take a look at this possession from the middle of the fourth quarter. Brunson kicks it to Precious Achiuwa breaking to the hoop for a dunk, who had his dreams denied through an Embiid block. Hart grabs the rebound who passes to Anunoby, he stabs into the paint to draw defenders before kicking to Achiuwa again, who misses once more off a Tobias Harris block. Achiuwa grabs his own rebound, repays the favor with a dish to Anunoby who finally gets what at this point is like a third or fourth chance bucket.

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It’s an unreal sequence that played out multiple times across the game, eating up clock and battering the Sixers bodies and mental fortitude in the process. Embiid was more or less a husk by the end of the game, scoring 27 points with 10 rebounds and six assists, but he was shutout in the fourth quarter. Tyrese Maxey had 23 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. added 19, but the Sixers looked otherwise flat, shooting just 35 percent from the field and losing the battle for points in the paint.

And now they have to return to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. If Embiid thought it was “disappointing” to see so many Knicks fans who took Joe Biden’s Amtrak down to a hostile environment just to drown out the Philly crowd, nothing can prepare him for the Night Of A Thousand Bing Bongs. Prayers up Joel.

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