The New York Knicks topped the Philadelphia 76ers 111-104 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Playoffs matchup on Saturday, and Josh Hart had himself a game.

Coming up big with 22 points and 13 rebounds on a night where Knicks star Jalen Brunson shot only 8-26 from the floor, Hart earned the praise of New York coach Tom Thibodeau:

Said the Knicks coach after the game, “I don't want to overlook his contribution, because he's was a monster throughout. Big rebounds, tough defense, hustle plays, big shots, coming up with loose balls. And that's what this is. You've got to show toughness.”

Philadelphia center Joel Embiid had to leave after appearing to reinjure his surgically repaired left knee on a dunk. He returned and rallied the 76ers into the lead in the second half, but Hart hit a couple big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help the Knicks pull out the win.

While Brunson is undoubtedly the Knicks’ most impactful player – and Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, and Mitchell Robinson are probably their next most important players – Hart has been key for New York down the stretch this season.

Something clicked for Hart following the All-Star break. He averaged 12.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 5.8 assists in a mind-blowing 40.5 minutes per game across 27 games since February 22. He also accumulated six triple doubles since late January, after having none in his entire career before then.

Knicks roll behind Hart and Brunson

New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) celebrates with guard Jalen Brunson (11) in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers in game one of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden.
© Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Brunson may have only shot 8-26 but he still managed to tie Hart for the Knicks' team high with 22 points.

Behind Hart and Brunson, the Knicks played only three players off the bench – Miles McBride, Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic. McBride led the way for the second unit with 21 points, Bogdanovic added 13 and Robinson had eight points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots.

The Knicks are playing without Julius Randle who is going to miss the entirety of the NBA Playoffs with a shoulder injury. But if the bench can continue to play like this, they’ll have a good shot at making a strong playoff run.

But ultimately, the Knicks' success is driven by Brunson. 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 scorer by simple virtue of shooting the most shots and, in fairness, made the Philly defense work very hard each and every time.
Look for Brunson to try to get going earlier in the game when the two teams battle each other in Game 2 of the series at Madison Square Garden on Monday night. The 76ers will need to continue to work to limit his access to easy shots, while hoping…praying…that Embiid can stay healthy enough to stay on the floor.