The Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks faced off in Game 2 after a physical, hard-fought opening showdown. The Sixers brought the fight to the Knicks much better and looked poised to win. Then they lost it in a flash, dropping Game 2 by a score of 104-101. Philly is now down 0-2 in the series.

Let’s break down Game 2 between the 76ers and the Knicks.

76ers player notes:

Joel Embiid: 34 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks, 12-29 FG shooting

The big man was back with a vengeance and an edge that fueled a great performance. He ripped a page out of the Knicks' book and attacked the offensive glass, pairing brute force with graceful jumpers from the mid-range. But he struggled to finish shots in the paint, even though some of them were instant tip-in putbacks.

Tyrese Maxey: 35 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists, 12-22 FG shooting

Despite contracting an illness earlier in the day, Maxey took the court and got off to a spectacular start. He led the game in both points (20) and assists (five) at halftime. Although he went scoreless in the third quarter, he got back to work in the fourth quarter, drawing the Knicks' defense in jumpers. His Flu Game almost saved the series momentum for Philly.

Knicks player notes:

Jalen Brunson: 24 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 8-29 FG shooting

After being neutralized in Game 1, Brunson once again couldn’t get it going. If not for his ability to get to the foul line, he would have left the Knicks without much production from their lead guard. The 76ers once again threw the right combination of big defenders and help over to his side at him.

Josh Hart: 21 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 7-16 FG shooting

At least one Villanova standout got some buckets (though Donte DiVincenzo also shot the ball very well). Hart continued the insane three-point shooting he displayed in the fourth quarter of Game 1 on top of rebounding the air out of the ball. The 76ers tried to make it a point of emphasis to contain him but he still found ways extremely atypical of his normal game to punish them.

Game recap:

The Knicks took Game 1 in one of their best rebounding performances of the season. Embiid tweaking his knee mid-game didn’t sideline him but it did render him less effective against a New York team that bullied Philly all over the boards and won despite Brunson being held in check. The adjustment to rebound better was obvious but it would take more for the 76ers to even up the series at one game apiece.

Embiid and Maxey were listed as questionable but still played. Knicks star Julius Randle was out, as were 76ers wings Robert Covington and De'Anthony Melton.

1st half

Kelly Oubre Jr. again started out on Brunson. The 76ers immediately showed a commitment to rebounding on the first shot attempt, instantly finding guys to box out. Isaiah Hartenstein still managed to secure that board but Philly did a much better job committing to the defense glass. Maxey hit a hat trick of catch-and-shoot triples as the Sixers kept the Knicks entirely off the scoreboard for almost three minutes to start the game.

Brunson continued to feel the pressure of the 76ers' defense, missing his first four shots. The physicality of the game came to an infraction point when Embiid and Josh Hart collided in the paint, sending the Knicks forward to the ground (though there was plenty of embellishment). It was reviewed for a hostile act but it was deemed marginal contact not even worthy of a common foul. Embiid continued to assert himself on offense, getting to the rim and fighting like heck on the offensive glass, collecting four early OREBs.

The Sixers had done their job in the minutes with Embiid in, leading by seven after the first quarter. But the question of how they would do when he hit the bench remained. The answer: not too shabby! They did still have to deal with Brunson but once again, the Knicks star was prevented from going off. Maxey, meanwhile, was creating his own shots off the bounce. He got into the paint with the use of his feline quickness while also bombing away from downtown.

Tobias Harris had helped out, too, by creating a layup by tapping a miss to Buddy Hield for a layup and draining a turnaround jumper. He displayed the high energy that the 76ers should always expect out of him, making him impactful despite a meager shooting start. Even then, he did a good job of shooting quickly and with confidence. By the time Embiid came back in, Philly still had its seven-point lead intact.

Embiid provided a lowlight by nudging Donte DiVincenzo enough to warrant a technical foul. The MSG crowd chanted “F**k Embiid!” as DiVincenzo took to the foul line. Brunson started to puncture the 76ers defense, though it amounted to just a few buckets inside. Embiid and Maxey made sure that it wouldn’t come at the end of the half, relocating to the right spots and hitting their shots (save for an empty foul-line trip from the big fella).

At halftime, the 76ers led 53-49. New York owed an enormous debt to Hart, who had 19 points on 7-13 shooting, including 4-5 from deep.

2nd half

The Knicks opened the second half with a run to tie the game up, clamping down on the Sixers' offense as they tried to feed Embiid at the nail. The big guy still got off his shots but it wasn’t easy. He took it right at Hartenstein, leaving him with three fouls, which was an issue for the Knicks. He had bounced back from Game 1 and was giving Embiid more problems than Mitchell Robinson in this contest.

Kyle Lowry's maniacal style of play was coming up big for the 76ers, too. He stacked hustle plays up, pestering the Knicks up and down the floor. But New York threatened to take its first lead of the game. Once Embiid sat, Brunson drove at Paul Reed and pulled up for a jumper off the glass to take a one-point lead.

The Sixers briefly went to a zone defense to try to stifle the Knicks as they tried to figure out how to get their own offense going. Embiid carried an outsize share of the workload, scoring decently while the rest of his teammates contributed little. Without him, guys like Harris and Buddy Hield struggle to create for themselves and Maxey was left trying to score on very tough shots. After getting outscored 30-21 in the third quarter, the Sixers trailed by five at the start of the fourth.

Bojan Bogdanovic undid some buckets from Embiid and Maxey to give the Knicks their biggest lead (seven points). New York pushed the pace and left the Sixers scrambling to find their matchups. Deuce McBride ripped a rebound from Maxey's hands and scored the layup as the Knicks' offense fueled high-octane defense, pushing Philly deep into the shot clock. Then McBride drained a pull-up jumper from the elbow through a foul.

The 76ers' commitment to rebounding had evaporated. Robinson was back in business snagging missed shots and giving the Knicks more chances. Still, Fourth Quarter Maxey had arrived with some critical buckets to keep the game within a single possession. Embiid provided an old-fashioned three-point play to make it a two-point game. A dazzling layup from Maxey knotted the two sides up at 94 with 3:49 left.

Batum took Oubre's spot as the Brunson defender in the 76ers' closing lineup. The Knicks forced a switch of Harris onto Brunson but he stayed home and forced a tough jumper that missed. Harris forced another Brunson miss and held onto the board. Embiid and Maxey used the chase action to free each other up and scramble the Knicks' defense, resulting in a pair of Embiid-assisted Maxey jumpers to push Philly's lead to four with just over a minute left.

And then disaster struck.

Brunson got a lucky bounce on a three. He and Hart ambushed Maxey to force a turnover. DiVincenzo missed a three, Hartenstein got the rebound and DiVincenzo made up for it on his second chance. Knicks led by one with 13.1 seconds left. The Garden shook as the crowd exploded.

Maxey got a running start but missed the lefty layup. OG Anunoby got the rebound and hit both free throws. The Knicks stole Game 2.

Assorted observations:

  • The Knicks straying from their normal blue jerseys is fine, but choosing their navy blue get-up over their pinstriped/1990s-inspired threads was a mistake.
  • Lowry's fearlessness when he's pursuing a loose ball near a sideline is incredible.

Game 3 will be at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday at 7:30 PM EST.