How the Knicks’ special chemistry helped them turn back the 76ers

PHILADELPHIA — Josh HartMagnetic palm trees secured the basketball one last time against 76ers Thursday night. One last step Buddy Hield It shot off the backboard like a missile seeking possession for Hart, his 14th and final rebound as the buzzer sounded New YorkThe sixth match is over Joel Embiid And co Nix“The swingman — a 6-foot-4 behemoth on the glass who has averaged 12.3 boards per game in these playoffs — then waved the crowd goodbye, his 3-pointer with 24.4 seconds to play proving to be the decisive dagger in New York survives 118-115 And win 4-2 in the series. Hart would keep the game ball close by, place it on his hip, and strut around the field doing postgame pleasantries with Philadelphia players and personnel.

Jalen Bronson She found Hart in a sea of ​​cameras and a half-hug as he moved his arm around her His former college classmatehis former college roommate, who helped New York draw a sixth seed Indiana In the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs — which begin Monday night at Madison Square Garden. Bronson was charming again on this South Side of Philadelphia, where… He, Hart and fellow Villanova product Donte DiVincenzo once played Big East home games. And so, after Brunson scored another 41 points and dished out 12 assists for the Sixers — becoming the seventh player in NBA history to score more than 40 points in three straight postseason games — he cupped Hart’s muscular shoulders, and Brunson pointed to the Navy Monday. Banners hang from the rafters marking the Wildcats’ NCAA championships from 2016 and 2018.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 02: Kelly Oubre Jr. #9 of the Philadelphia 76ers and Josh Hart #3 of the New York Knicks react after Hart's three-point basket during the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference first-round playoffs at Wells Fargo Center in May 02, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 02: Kelly Oubre Jr. #9 of the Philadelphia 76ers and Josh Hart #3 of the New York Knicks react after Hart's three-point basket during the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference first-round playoffs at Wells Fargo Center in May 02, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The Knicks’ Josh Hart follows after his 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter of Game 6 Thursday night in Philadelphia. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Bronson will continue on the sideline from there, with a TNT headset waiting to broadcast his interview back to Studio J Atlanta. Through questions from Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, Brunson’s eyes remained fixed on those blue banners, including the third pennant honoring Villanova’s title since 1985. All while Knicks president Leon Rose kept his emotional gaze trained on the exciting point guard raising this bar. Rose has been tasked with guiding the New York franchise back to relevance.

Wearing his black T-shirts low-slung in front of the visitors’ benches, Rose fought back tears as he surveyed the hardwood. They all frequented this stadium. Rose once walked the back lanes of this arena as Allen Iverson’s agent. Rose played high school ball over the Ben Franklin Bridge. The gym, where he scored more than 1,000 career points, is located a short distance from the JCC where, decades later, Bronson would lift his shots with friends after school. Now shaking his head and fighting back tears, Rose’s face lit up as Bronson finished his responsibilities, and Rose then wrapped the 27-year-old star in a big hug. They turned in front of a rowdy group of Knicks fans who had slipped into enemy territory and marched into the locker room, toward New York’s second straight season with at least one series to their name — the first stretch of such success for the franchise since 2000.

“The chemistry and communication between us in the locker room, on and off the field, is special,” Brunson said.

This connection was perhaps the special element that ultimately separated New York from its worthy adversary. After six games and one overtime, the Knicks led the Sixers by one point in the entire series. Before the final showdown ended, Philadelphia coach Nick Nurse was asked what themes he believed decided every game of this match, and the former champion had nothing concrete to offer. “I decided nothing mattered,” the nurse said. “They kill us on the glass, it comes down to the buzzer. We kill them on the glass, it comes down to the buzzer. Joel scores 50 points, it comes down to the buzzer. Brunson scores 47 points, it comes down to the buzzer.”

Sure enough, this match was called at the last minute. Philadelphia sent both Nic Batum and… Kelly Aubrey Trapped by Bronson’s handle when that half minute was up. “They attacked,” Hart said. He had perfect vision from above the key, but Hart’s first instinct was to skip any pass from Brunson to DiVincenzo – who went off to his best game of the series, scoring 23 points on 5-of-9 shooting from deep.

Perhaps it was a subconscious pause to let someone else, or another wildcat, tip his fortunes in New York’s favor. Hart’s two missed free throws at the end of regulation in Game 5 would have given the Knicks a lead big enough to fend off Philadelphia and end this one early. “That loss sat on my shoulders,” Hart said. “I had a day and a half to think about it. That’s really all I thought about.”

However, the Sixers have not changed direction. As in Game 1, Philadelphia trapped Hart on an island, with nothing but ocean between him and the rim, and Hart surrendered again. After his brief hesitation, there was no other choice. “One second, well, I saw how they were doing it, not turning, and I was able to plant my feet and get an open, uncontested shot,” Hart said.

Hart played more than 46 minutes on Thursday. He sat for less than 20 minutes on each series. “Josh is never close to getting out,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. Did the coach really think about giving him a long break, even after Hart hurt his ankle in the first half? “It was a fleeting thought. I just let it go,” Thibodeau said.

New York passed its first test of the postseason. They held on after one of the toughest first round fights in recent memory. They couldn’t even enjoy this win until midnight, as Thibodeau usually allows his players. By the time they gathered in the locker room, Thursday had already turned into Friday, and the Knicks had reached… Pacers.

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