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2024 NBA Playoffs: 3 adjustments for Sixers to bounce back vs Knicks

2024 NBA Playoffs: 3 adjustments for Sixers to bounce back vs Knicks

The Philadelphia 76ers are in a state of dilemma right now. 

As Philadelphia enters Game 2 in their best-of-7 series against the New York Knicks on the road at the Madison Square Garden, it has them wondering for adjustments and key plays with hopes of tying the series.

Although Nick Nurse’s defensive scheme on the Knicks’ Jalen Brunson, his buddy Josh Hart happened and knocked down three crucial three-pointers in the 4th quarter of Game 1 to bury the Sixers. Brunson was held to 22 points on 8-26 shooting, but Hart had 22 points himself as well.

That’s bad news for the Sixers. The Knicks star point guard have been playing at an all-NBA level this season thus far and it is clear that the game plan is to send guys at Brunson for him to see bodies and make him work for his points. However, when someone else has a performance as big as Hart’s in Game 1, that would be difficult for the Sixers to overcome.

On offense, Tyrese Maxey shouldered most of the offensive load in the 4th quarter after reigning MVP Joel Embiid injured his knee in the first half. Embiid came to play in the second half, but was visibly not his usual self physically, missing his patented midrange jumpers and some layups around the basket. He ended up finishing the game with 29 points but shot an abysmal 8-22 from the field. Maxey himself scored 33 points but played a game-high 43 minutes for the game. This is something the Sixers should monitor because as young and spry as he is, Maxey is essential for them down the stretch especially if this extends down the line.

How could the Sixers bounce back? Heading into tonight’s Game 2 and moving forward into the series, here are some of the things the Sixers could do to steal one on the road and possibly win the series.

Play Buddy Hield more

The Sixers’ midseason acquisition only played for 10 minutes and did not score at all. That is uncharacteristic for someone you brought in for this exact reason: to have more weapons around Embiid in the playoffs. Although a defensive liability at times, Hield’s gravity as a shooter and threat from the outside is more than enough to compensate for those. 

Hield is a proven knockdown shooter who can only help space the floor for Embiid when he’s in the middle of the floor. If given the opportunity and he hits his shots, the paint will open up even more which will give Embiid and Maxey more room to operate.

“Buddy [Hield] didn’t get much of a chance last game,” Nurse said on Sunday. “He did have a couple of plays there. He didn’t play good. It’s a game where you can’t extend minutes when a guy has three or four mistakes, but I do say this he’ll be a factor in the series. He could have just as easily made that wide-open 3, and then hit another one the next time down the floor like he does, but he didn’t. We kind of gave him this chance to impact it and we had to get back to somebody else, but he’ll be a factor.”

Involve Tobias Harris on more offensive actions and build up his confidence

As it stands right now, Tobias Harris’ confidence has looked to be cooked and nowhere to be found. He has been playing out of sorts over the past few games, oftentimes getting lost in translation within the flow of the Sixers offense at times. With Embiid demanding the ball and the attention most of the time and Maxey setting the offense up, this leaves Harris with little to no opportunities to have any sort of offensive rhythm.

Harris is also not the role player specialist like Kelly Oubre who brings defensive toughness, hits the occasional threes, and provides the timely cuts, or Nic Batum’s lockdown one-on-one defense coupled with his three-point marksmanship. Harris is someone you make plays for to set him up. He has shown that capability over his career, being the third option on offense. Harris’ skill set allows him to attack off the catch, hit some catch-and-shoot threes here and there, and run some pick-and-rolls with certain guys.

If the Sixers want to have a chance to bounce back in Game 2, Harris should be more involved on offense no matter how Nick Nurse and his staff would do it. A 30-million-dollar player like Harris can’t just camp in the corner or wings ball-watching and watch the ball come to him, he should be utilized in a way his strengths as a player can help the Sixers.

Bench production is a must

In Game 1, the Sixers only had 5 bench points. That can’t happen again. Even though they are down two key rotation players in DeAnthony Melton and Robert Covington, both the coaching staff and the players themselves need to do a better job involving players on offense and stepping up to the plate. This is the playoffs and everyone has to contribute something.

After scoring 20 points against Miami, Batum only had 3 points in Game 1. Hield wasn’t even able to score a point. Backup big Paul Reed has to be more aggressive especially now that Embiid is not 100%. Cam Payne has to hit one or two shots when he comes in, just to change the complexion of the game a little bit. Maybe Nick Nurse could reach a bit deeper into his bag of tricks and activate someone like Ricky Council for an energy boost after the rookie played a good stretch to end the season.

The bench has to help the starters at some point in the series. But it has to start in Game 2 – because it takes everyone to win a playoff basketball game.

 

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