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On night Brunson is off, Knicks role players step up, earn Game 1 win vs. 76ers

Philadelphia 76ers v New York Knicks - Game One

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 20: Josh Hart #3 of the New York Knicks celebrates his three point shot late in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers in game one of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 20, 2024 in New York City. The New York Knicks defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 111-104. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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Jalen Brunson was not himself. The guy that drove the Knicks offense all season shot 8-of-26 on his way to 22 points. He and his backcourt mate Donte DiVincenzo combined to shoot 11-of-36.

If you told Knicks fans that before the game, they would have hung their heads. Instead, by the end of the game those fans were throwing their heads back and screaming in joy, all because the Knicks role players stepped up:

• Josh Hart had 22 points, hitting four 3-pointers, and made a number of big plays late.
• Miles “Deuce” McBride scored 21 off the bench, hitting 5-of-7 from 3 and maybe being the Knicks’ MVP of the night — the Knicks were +37 in his minutes.
• OG Anunoby hit a late key three and had his moments.
• Mitchell Robinson looked like his dominant self defensively in the paint.

All that was enough on a night Joel Embiid was good but not dominant — New York hung on late for a 111-104 win at home in front of a raucous Madison Square Garden crowd.

New York now leads the series 1-0 with Game 2 coming Monday night in Manhattan.

Embiid and the 76ers dominated the game’s opening minutes, with New York single-covering him and Embiid either taking his man to the basket or making the smart pass. The result was a 17-7 early lead.

Not only did that lead fade once McBride entered the game late in the first— he was the catalyst for a couple of New York runs — but there was a genuine Embiid health scare late in the first half.

Embiid returned to the court in the second half but was never dominant in this game for an extended stretch. The 76ers’ best player on the night was Tyrese Maxey, who finished with 31 to lead the team. Kyle Lowry added 18 points.

The difference in this game was simple: On a night neither team’s best player was dominant, one team had their role players step up.

This was a true team win for New York in a gritty, classic Eastern Conference-style playoff game. The entire series will be that way, and taking this one is a good sign for the Knicks.