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HomeSportThe Knicks move past the Sixers to reach the Eastern Conference semifinals

The Knicks move past the Sixers to reach the Eastern Conference semifinals

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Josh Hart raised his arms and held out three fingers on each hand on his 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 24.4 seconds left that was finally enough to push the New York Knicks past Philadelphia 76ers 118 -115 in Game 6 Thursday night and in the second round of the playoffs.

Jalen Brunson had 41 points and 12 assists to lead the Knicks, who are set for an Eastern Conference semifinal matchup with Indiana. The Pacers beat Milwaukee in six games to advance to the second round for the first time in 10 years.

Game 1 takes place Monday night in New York.

The Knicks advance to the second round in back-to-back years for the first time since the 1992-2000 sophomore season, and even then, no one did what Brunson did in this streak by scoring 40 points or more in each of the three games. last. He became the first Knick to do so since Bernard King 40 years ago, and the first NBA player to score 40 or more to end a streak since Michael Jordan for Chicago against Cleveland in 1989.

In a series defined by close games, Hart hit the clutch shot that made it 114-111 and once again it was “Let's go Knicks! Let's go to the Knicks!” chants echoed throughout Philly's home court. Joel Embiid scored a bucket but missed the next possession. Donte DiVincenzo sealed the victory for New York with two free throws.

“The fourth quarter was just one big play after another,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Of course, the former Villanova Wildcats trio of Hart, DiVincenzo and Jalen Brunson saved the Knicks from a first-half collapse that was almost enough to force a Game 7. DiVincenzo had 23 points and Hart 16.

Embiid finished with 39 points and 13 rebounds. Buddy Hield scored 20 points. After dropping 45 points in Game 5, Tyrese Maxey was a non-factor in the first half and finished with 17.

“This series probably could have gone the exact opposite way it did,” 76ers coach Nick Nurse said. “But it didn't happen.”

The 76ers still haven't made it past the second round since 2001 and can place much of the blame on their starter. Tobias Harris, in the final year of a five-year, $180 million contract, went scoreless. So did Kyle Lowry.

Despite Philadelphia's best efforts to keep the raucous Knicks fans at home, the Wells Fargo Center looked more like Madison Square Garden in the final moments. Knicks fans crowded the New York tunnel after the game and held up their phones to catch video of their favorite team heading to the locker room.

“Was it hostile?” Thibodeau cracked, when asked about the atmosphere.

This was a game where it seemed natural to want us to go ahead in the last minute. After all, there have been five playoff games since the 1996-97 season where a team trailed by five or more in the final 30 seconds of regulation and came back to win — and two were in this series .

Game 2, the Knicks rallied to win 104-101.

Game 5, the 76ers came back for a 112-106 overtime win.

Exhilarating, exhausting, there was more can-you-ball-this ahead.

With Sixers fans packing the building, they were roaring at the end — just after 9 p.m. EDT — only for the Knicks to come roaring to a 33-11 lead. Just last season, the 76ers held a 3-2 series lead against Boston in the East semifinals, only to drop Game 6 at home and then Game 7 in Boston. The Sixers lost Game 6 and the 2022 East semifinal at home to Miami.

Only in this Game 6 did the Sixers show some moxie.

With Maxey unable to find a shot, Hild nearly saved the season. Acquired at the trade deadline, Hild lost his starting job after a late-season slump. He missed all four of his 3-point attempts in the first three games of the series and didn't play in the last two. Hield found his groove in Game 6, hitting five 3s in the second quarter that fueled the Sixers on a 34-11 run.

His fifth 3 helped the Sixers take a 54-51 lead into halftime.

Maxey hit a 3 for a 10-point lead in the third before a pair of wild misses from beyond the arc ignited a Knicks rally. OG Anunoby ended the third quarter with a 3 for New York and opened the fourth with one for an 86-83 lead. With the game tied at 95, Brunson hit a go-ahead 3 and then another 3 to make it 101-95.

Anunoby's dunk for an eight-point Knicks lead with 2:43 left looked like it might be decisive. But the Sixers had one more run in them.

“A lot of our guys don't have playoff experience,” Thibodeau said. “I think going through a series like this is invaluable for them.”

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