An old rivalry will be reborn in the 2024 NBA playoffs as the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks square off in the first round.

The last time New York and Philadelphia faced off in a playoff series was 1989. Patrick Ewing led his team to a sweep over Charles Barkley and company in the best-of-five series. This time around, Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey will look to get the Sixers over the hump against Jalen Brunson and his deep, “extremely grimy” supporting cast.

Neither team will be at 100 percent full strength with New York missing All-Star forward Julius Randle and Philly still working Embiid back to full health after two months on the sideline (plus injuries to 3-and-D wings De'Anthony Melton and Robert Covington). But as they each stand, both squads are very, very good and ready to begin what they each hope is a lengthy postseason run.

Ahead of what should be an electric showdown, here are five bold predictions for the first-round series between the 76ers and the Knicks.

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Knicks' Jalen Brunson leads the series in scoring

 New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) controls the ball against Philadelphia 76ers guard Kyle Lowry (7) during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden
© Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

A whole lot of the Sixers' offense runs through Embiid. But everything runs through Brunson on the Knicks' side. Perhaps his efficiency dips a little bit under a host of intensified defensive attention. Nonetheless, he's all but certain to make a big mark of some kind.

Philly's defense found a way to halt Brunson's hot scoring without Embiid in its lone win over New York during the regular season. But that game plan will be tough to pull off on a game-to-game basis, especially on the tear Brunson got on to end the regular season, averaging 35.9 points and 8.8 assists per game with a 61.4 true shooting percentage in eight games in April.

The Knicks do a great job of using Brunson's scoring gravity. They fight hard to get extra possessions and use plenty of off-ball motion to get Brunson going. Whether it's a high screen or a dribble handoff along the sideline, the Knicks make Brunson the focal point on offense without simply throwing him the ball and making him break down the defense each and every time.

Although Embiid can patrol the paint more comfortably due to the Knicks' lack of shooting in the frontcourt, he will have to start his possessions around the elbows and the foul line to prevent Brunson from walking into open mid-range shots. On top of being a very efficient mid-range and three-point shooter, Brunson is incredibly shifty and smart about how to get to the foul line.

While Brunson may be without another player who can consistently penetrate the defense off the dribble, he has enough shooters and quick thinkers around him to keep the Sixers' defense on its toes every possession. Embiid and Maxey have each other to depend on to create shots at a high level but Brunson is by far the top option for New York.

76ers' Joel Embiid averages three blocks per game

The Knicks' greatest strength on offense is how well-organized it is. Perhaps its key weakness is a lack of perimeter shooting that could make it harder to score inside. Embiid is surely bogged down by his still-recovering left knee to some degree but as long as he's still able to move pretty well, he's going to be a monster on defense and block a lot of shots.

The Miami Heat, just like the Knicks, play at a slower pace and sacrifice spacing by playing wings that aren’t high-efficiency shooters. They tried to solve that problem against the Sixers in the play-in game by trying to score on fast breaks and early in the shot clock more often. Miami was able to do that in part because they have a center in Bam Adebayo who can handle the ball well in the open court.

The Knicks, though, don’t have a center who can run breaks like him. Either they quickly get it to a guard or try their hands at scoring in the halfcourt against one of the NBA's best interior defensive forces.

Embiid can often struggle to perform his responsibilities as a rim protector when he's matched up with a stretch big. Fortunately for him, that won’t be a problem against the Knicks team, which deploys Isaiah Hartenstein and Mitchell Robinson at center. Exacerbating the issue is Josh Hart, a questionable shooter on the wing who, because of his stellar rebounding and defensive versatility, will play a lot of minutes for the Knicks.

Although the Knicks can get into dribble handoffs with Hart if he's used as a player for Embiid to roam off of, it’s not something they can do every time without getting slowed down eventually. If Hart's shooting weakness is exposed, the Knicks may have to turn to one of Bojan Bogdanovic or Alec Burks for more minutes. Both veterans are knockdown shooters but are extremely limited in other areas (namely defense and passing).

Embiid averaged an even 3.0 blocks per game in last year's second-round matchup with the Boston Celtics and could wreak a similar level of havoc against the Knicks. New York shoots threes often, ranking 11th in three-point attempt rate this season, so Philly could overplay those shots in an attempt to funnel shooters inside the arc closer to Embiid. It would be a lot of work for the big man but it would be minimized by the fact that he'll be matched up with a non-shooter himself.

Nico Batum is moved to the starting lineup before or during the series

Batum has given the Sixers a major boost throughout the season, none bigger than his terrific performance in the play-in game. It's becoming increasingly clear that he will be very important for Philly — so much so that Nick Nurse may choose to get him back in the starting lineup.

It would be shocking for Nurse to bench Tobias Harris at this point of the season. However, if his play against the Knicks during the regular season is any indication, he may not have a choice. Harris averaged 6.3 points per game against New York in four games this season, shooting just 31.4 percent from the field.

Embiid was absent for three of those games and will help Harris a lot now, though the same holds true for everyone else on the roster. Still, even though Harris may struggle against the fast-thinking, physical opponents in front of him, removing him from the starting role he has had for Philly for five full seasons now would be a massively drastic change. It’s much more likely that he's on a shorter leash and plays fewer minutes if he’s really struggling.

If Batum is brought back into the starting five, it's almost certainly going to be in Kelly Oubre Jr.'s place. Starting Batum, a sturdier defender and one of the very best playmakers on the roster, will help elevate Embiid and Maxey more. It's more important for the Sixers to give Embiid and Maxey their best chances to thrive than it is for them to do so for their teammates.

The 76ers used Batum as Brunson's primary defender in prior matchups this season. Lowry took on that role once he arrived (and Batum was moved to the bench) but the Sixers will probably look to do everything they can to slow down Brunson. Adding Batum gives Philly more options against the defensive matchup it absolutely must get right.

Tyrese Maxey struggles to start, then scores 30 points in two games

The Knicks' defense has been great for much of the season, especially with Anunoby, who is likely to be Maxey's main defender. Although the Sixers star's speed has given him trouble, New York's collective might could keep Maxey from going off in the first few games of the series.

With his speed, Maxey has the capability to change the pace of the game. If he gets it going from deep, he could single-handedly fuel a run that gives the Sixers a big lead. Maxey showed throughout the regular season that he can erupt for huge scoring nights. However, if there’s one thing that is shown to slow Maxey down, it's big, aggressive defenses. There’s not a much better tagline that fits this Knicks team.

It's not totally shocking for that to be the case for a smaller, skinnier guard but it remains true nonetheless. Maxey may need a little while to feel out where he can attack and build up his confidence before he puts the pedal to the metal. Once he does, he'll be a headache for the Knicks' defense.

Embiid should play a huge part in getting Maxey going, just as the guard will do for him. In his lone game facing the Knicks this season, Embiid brought the ball up often, forcing the Knicks to pinch their defenders inward or risk Embiid blowing by Hartenstein. If Maxey consistently stations himself one pass away from Embiid, he would put his defender in a major bind. Playing off of Embiid or leading charge when he sits, Maxey has to be aggressive and alert at all times.

76ers beat Knicks in six games

This series could easily go seven games long and will be hard-fought no matter what. The Sixers should have the best player in the series in Embiid and a star alongside him that should make it harder for New York to key in. With those advantages, a series win could very well be theirs.

Rebounding is obviously going to be huge in this series. A lot of the Knicks' ability to score in the halfcourt is due to the second chances they generate. If Philly can take away that source of offense for them — a task much easier said than done but still doable — then it’ll be much easier to keep Brunson and company from running up their score.

Embiid's defensive prowess is going to be tough for the Knicks to overcome unless one of their shooters catches fire or they start playing with a higher pace. His abilities can inspire his teammates to be more aggressive on defense, forcing more turnovers or slowing down the New York offense.

Should the 76ers find themselves with a 3-2 series lead, the urgency should be through the roof. In last year’s second round, they learned what screwing around in a Game 6 at home can do. Along with that lesson of how a Game 7 on the road can go wrong, the team and coaching around Embiid is markedly better.

The Knicks are more than capable of winning this series. One of these teams, despite soundly being the second- and third-best teams in the conference (in whatever order), is going to be bounced earlier than it should. Embiid and Maxey should be good enough to make sure the 76ers keep on dancing.