The Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks began their first-round series on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. The Sixers rode an emotional rollercoaster due to a Joel Embiid injury scare and, although the big man wasn’t ruled out of the game, lost 111-104.

Let’s break down Game 1 between the 76ers and the Knicks.

76ers player notes:

Joel Embiid: 29 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 8-22 FG shooting

It took Embiid less than three minutes to score nine points. He was a monster to start the game and then seemingly got injured on a highlight-reel dunk. Although it didn’t knock him from the game, it was yet another setback for the big man as he still looks to reacclimate to the game.

The big man feasted in the paint but stretched the defense out by getting up some threes (and making a few of them). His defense was game-changing, as was his presence on the boards, despite being less than 100 percent. The Sixers were amazing when he played and really rough when he didn’t. Hmmm, sounds familiar.

Tyrese Maxey: 33 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 14-26 FG shooting

Maxey looked ready to go from the jump, playing hard and making his shots while playing off of Embiid. He was not nearly as good when Embiid sat but was still on his A-game in his time next to his co-star nonetheless. He scored magnificently in the paint, winding around defenders and scoring at tough angles.

Knicks player notes:

Jalen Brunson: 22 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 8-26 FG shooting

The 76ers successfully kept Brunson in check, surrounding him with defenders at all sides and forcing him into very tough shots. He was the Knicks' leading score by simple virtue of shooting the most shots and, in fairness, made the Philly defense work very hard each and every time.

Miles McBride: 21 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 7-12 FG shooting

McBride had just three total playoff points to his name coming into this game. After torching the 76ers in the regular season, Deuce was an absolute madman in this opening game, draining shots from all around the arc and playing stout defense.

Game recap:

New York City and Philadelphia have spent decades bickering, debating and dissing the other city's sports teams without a playoff matchup between their basketball squads. That changes now. Both the Sixers and the Knicks had stretches during the regular season where they looked like world-beaters. Neither side won as much as they could have due to injuries and settled on opposite sides of the 2-7 matchup in the Eastern Conference. This series was shaping up to be intense and competitive.

Knicks star Julius Randle and Sixers veterans De’Anthony Melton and Robert Covington were all out.

1st half

Kelly Oubre Jr. started off on Brunson but the Knicks used Brunson to set screens off the ball to get Tobias Harris switched onto him. As OG Anunoby started off guarding Maxey, Embiid got to work when he got the ball, forcing his way to nine points while making his first three shots, two of which he was fouled on. He and Maxey got into their two-man game, freeing Maxey up for a triple that put Philly up by 10 despite New York doing its typical damage on the offensive glass.

Brunson kept running and gunning for the Knicks but forced the issue a lot and missed five of his first seven shots. He and Isaiah Hartenstein got into a series of handoffs and give-and-go actions, targeting Maxey on defense, though he stepped up with a block from behind on a Brunson jumper. In for the Sixers came Nico Batum, the play-in hero himself, as the first substitution of the game to replace Harris and match up with Brunson.

Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic came in soon after for New York. Buddy Hield came in a little but later, making his debut in the playoffs in his eighth NBA season. Embiid did a great job spreading the ball around, assisting Batum for three while making a great pass to Oubre along the baseline that netted him a shooting foul. Batum covering Brunson tightly made it tough for the Knicks to efficiently find offense. Embiid's 15 points in the first quarter helped Philly lead by nine at the end of the period.

Brunson and Embiid both sat to begin the next period. Triples from Bogdanovic and Miles McBride brought the scoreboard even as Harris came up empty on three shots at the start of the second quarter. It took some miracle layups from Paul Reed to put Philly on the scoreboard in the opening minutes of the second quarter. Reed got off to a really nice start on both sides of the ball as Brunson returned to a Knicks team gaining momentum.

Harris' bad game continued with a charge call, his third foul, as Embiid returned to action. The big man showed no interest in taking his man off the dribble, choosing instead to wander around the perimeter and fire up jumpers. A Brunson turnaround jumper gave the Knicks the lead. Embiid turned on the burners and charged ahead at Mitchell Robinson, drawing a foul on a layup attempt.

Embiid threw an alley-oop to himself off the backboard and flushed it on Anunoby. Then he came down hard on his left leg, laying in the paint for the aftermath of that possession. He eventually got up and walked back to the locker room. Already in the midst of a disastrous second quarter, disaster struck for the Sixers.

Before the half, Robinson provided his own spectacular play by blocking a Maxey layup and throwing it off his head out of bounds. Tom Thibodeau rolled with him and McBride, who went on to drain another triple, for nearly the whole second quarter. He saw the hot hands and let them cook, which ended up being a great decision.

At halftime, the 76ers trailed 58-46.

2nd half

Embiid started the half for the Sixers, not looking too zapped of any burst. He took the ball inside for a layup but also was a tad late rotating over to contest an Anunoby dunk, deciding to duck out of the way. Philly looked to pull even, going to the two-man action with its stars. Nine quick points from Kyle Lowry helped Philly pull closer.

The Lowry rampage continued as he was fouled on a triple by Hartenstein and made each free throw. Maxey started to get into the fun with some beautiful change-of-pace/misdirection moves to score at the rim, cutting a 14-point deficit down to three. An Embiid triple tied it up, though DiVincenzo responded with his own. Embiid connected with Oubre twice, including on a dart of a bounce pass in the fast break, to get Philly back ahead.

Embiid was simply doing everything for the 76ers. He was a beast on defense, taking away passing lanes and keeping rim attempts to a minimum simply by being there. With the scoring contributions he got from his teammates (namely Lowry), the Sixers jumped ahead on the scoreboard to begin the fourth quarter.

The Embiid-less minutes to start the final frame did not go the Sixers' way, though they weren’t disastrous. The Knicks took a two-point lead as the big man returned with over eight minutes to play. Brunson was given a few minutes to rest and McBride, of course, kept the Knicks ahead with clutch scoring. Even with Brunson back, McBride did a lot of initiation on offense.

The Sixers found more trouble scoring as the quarter went on, relying on Embiid to bail them out with some baited foul calls. The Knicks smothered the Embiid-Maxey duo with aggressive helps in the gaps. Robinson did a great job standing up to Embiid on top of keeping him busy on the glass on the other end.

Philly gambled over and over that Hart wouldn’t be comfortable shooting and it worked a lot — but it came back to bite them when Hart put New York up by six with a huge triple. The Sixers overloaded to deter Brunson again and didn’t leave Hart. Instead, they left open Anunoby, who made it a seven-point game. Hart hucked up another three, this one off balance, and got it to go.

The final seconds featured a “F*k Embiid” chant after he gave a light shove to Brunson on a scramble for a loose ball as the Knicks wrapped up Game 1.

Assorted observations:

  • The Knicks really did their offensive-rebounding thing, collecting 23, a total they reached just once all season.
  • Oubre and Knicks superfan Ben Stiller talked trash through movie references before the ball even tipped off for the series. Absolutely love it. This series will be war.

Gane 2 is on Monday night. Tip-off at MSG is scheduled for 7:30 PM EST.