After a terrible, terrible loss on Monday, the Sixers look to rebound against the Knicks in a do-or-die situation.
No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in playoff history, and the Sixers most likely won’t become the first to do so.

Forget Last Game

The refs messed up, but the refs mess up all the time! Great players and great teams don’t make excuses – they battle through and win the game.

If the Sixers come out tonight with Monday’s game left in their minds, they will lose. Doing so means they will complain more about fouls, and we will see the mopey/frustrated version of Joel Embiid, who never wins. Embiid and Maxey need to take last night’s game as motivation to come out hot and play physically against a Knicks team that has bullied them so far in the last two games.


What’s the Problem?

The first game came down to one thing: rebounding. Obviously. What a disgrace that was.
The second game could also be rebounding as well, but it was a lot closer than the first, although it did not seem that close based on the eye test during the game. It felt that every time the Knicks got a rebound, they converted it into points.
Uncharacteristically, the Sixers missed some free throws that we have grown accustomed to them making (especially Embiid). With such a close game, we can blame anything, but when it comes down to it, the Knicks played 48 minutes, and the Sixers played 47 minutes and 13 seconds. That’s what lost the game.

Buddy Hield is another problem that people haven’t been talking about too much. When the Sixers acquired Hield, Morey said, “We feel like we got the best player at the trade deadline that was traded,” yet he has scored just 2 points in 26 minutes of postseason play. Unacceptable.


What’s Gone Well?

Defensively, Nick Nurse has drawn up a great game plan to hold down Jalen Brunson. He scored 22 and 24 points in games 1 and 2, respectively, while shooting 30% and 27% in those games. If you showed me what his stat line would be before each game, I would think the Sixers should be up 2-0 right now. Unfortunately, Josh Hart has killed the Sixers to make up for Brunson’s inefficiency. Continuing to play this tight defense on Brunson by throwing a lot of different looks of Oubre, Batum, Tobias, Maxey, and now Melton should help the Sixers dig their way back into this series. Josh Hart can’t stay this hot forever, right?

In addition to suffocating defense on Brunson, the Sixers’ two stars, Embiid and Maxey, have played pretty much as well as anybody could ask for. These two have put their heart, body, and soul into the last two games. Nobody should put any of the blame on these two—they’ve been phenomenal.


How to Win Tonight

As always, Maxey and Embiid should have priority on offense, but when they provide opportunities for the other players, those guys need to make the best of those opportunities. Tobias Harris needs to stop bricking shots off the backboard, Oubre needs to use his athleticism down low, and Hield needs to make a 3-pointer. Maxey and Embiid have done their part to get shots for these guys.

The Knicks have thrived on hustle plays and rebounding, so the Sixers need to figure out how to limit that. With Melton coming back tonight, maybe he can provide some fresh legs and energy to bolster the dead-looking Sixers in the later minutes of each half. He’s versatile and has the ability to score, which can provide some much-needed bench scoring.

Also, Nurse should look into the possibility of putting Mo Bamba in as the backup center instead of Paul Reed. I love Paul Reed as much as the next guy, but he lacks in size, which limits his rebounding against a strong rebounding team, and he does not have as much rim protection. Ideally, whoever plays backup center won’t take too many shots, so which one provides the best defense, rebounding, and screen setting? The answer has to be Bamba. It’s a minor move, but it could provide the bench with some extra rebounding that they have not had.

One last thing: Tobias cannot play as many minutes as he has. In two games, he has scored just 17 points in 72 minutes! Nick Nurse, what are you doing!? I honestly think Ricky Council could provide the same offensive output while also giving more energy, rebounding, and defensive effort. Please do not let Tobias play so much.


Embiid Needs a Legacy Game

As of now, Embiid’s playoff high is 40 points, but we all know how capable he is of scoring much more than that. He has not established himself in the playoffs with a so-called “legacy game.” We know his knee is hurt, but he’s always hurt. He needs to push through and be dominant in this game, and carry his team to a playoff win. Doing so could shoot them forward to possibly win this series.

Even with Maxey, Embiid still has to put in the work to dominate the game. Maxey’s great, but he’s 23. Maxey is still figuring out this whole playoffs thing. Embiid’s been through it many times, so he needs to get it done and carry the team. He can’t let the inconsistency of NBA refs get to his head. Instead, he needs to go out there and play like he won’t get any calls at all. If he can get physical and get to the rim consistently, the Knicks have no shot.


PHOTO: Getty Images

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