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76ers Drop the Ball: Who’s to Blame for Game 2 Loss to Knicks?

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The 76ers can turn things around these if these two key players step their offensive game up.

The Philadelphia 76ers continued their battle with the New York Knicks in Game 2 of an intense NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. Philly fought hard but lost 104-101 on Monday night. There were many factors affecting the Sixers’ performance, but two players to be examined for the team’s poor night are Tobias Harris and Kelly Oubre Jr.

Philadelphia entered Monday night’s game three days removed from their 111-104 Game 1 loss to the Knicks. One of the biggest positives from the first game was the 76ers’ hounding defense on Jalen Brunson. Brunson shot 30.8% from the field and went one for six on three-pointers.

The star Knicks guard admitted that Philly played tough defense after the game.

“It was great defense. And they had a great gameplan, and I gotta go back to the drawing board and be better,” Brunson said.

Philadelphia’s phenomenal effort on Brunson extended into Game 2. He shot a lowly 27.8% from the field and went one for six on threes again. Nevertheless, the rest of Brunson’s team stepped up and gave the 76ers a hard time.

Josh Hart continued his double-double barrage ending with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Donte DiVincenzo and Isaiah Hartensetin also had double-digit scoring nights. Still, the 76ers put up an admirable effort against the Knicks, headlined by Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

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Embiid notched 34 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists, while Maxey nearly had a triple-double with 35 points, 10 assists, and nine rebounds. Despite outshooting the Knicks in field goal percentage and three-point percentage, the 76ers fell short. It begs the question of what the team can do to get over the hump.

One of the most obvious answers is to get production from the team’s other starters. First, Tobias Harris must produce more if Philly is to be successful.

Tobias Harris: the offensive spark the 76ers need more from 

Tobias Harris (12) dribbles up court during the first half of Knicks game
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Harris finished Game 2 with 10 points and nine rebounds in 40 minutes, which was a solid effort. However, he needs to up his offensive game for the Sixers to overcome New York’s attack. Harris averaged 17.5 points and shot 35.3% on three-pointers during the 2023-24 regular season. Thus, he is capable of a higher scoring load.

The veteran forward has scored well below his season average in both of the Sixers’ first two playoff games. His 10-point performance was preceded by a seven-point outing in Game 1. Harris is taking the right steps by putting up shots. He attempted five three-pointers and 11 total field goals in Game 2. Now, he just needs to knock them down.

Harris is one of Philadelphoa’s biggest offensive X factors, and if he can get things going, the team can overcome their deficit. Speaking of X factors, the team would massively benefit from a Kelly Oubre Jr. scoring eruption.

Kelly Oubre Jr. and the experience of an untimely slump

76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (9) looks up during the first half of Knicks game
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Oubre was a pleasant surprise for the 76ers at the start of the regular season. He cooled down some but still averaged a commendable 15.1 points per game. Like Harris, Oubre scored below his season averages in Philly’s first two postseason matchups.

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He finished Game 1 with 10 points and amassed just four points in Game 2. Oubre’s three-point shooting is admittedly streaky. He only shot 31.8% during the regular season, but when he gets hot, he is a true game-changer.

The 76ers need Oubre to get involved more on the offensive side as a threat who can take pressure off Embiid and Maxey. The 28-year-old still has plenty left to give despite his subpar postseason showings. Philly needs to see the same Oubre who scored over 20 points in back-to-back games during the regular season.

Philadelphia will have an increased chance to bounce back from their tough Game 2 loss if Oubre takes himself to another level.

The 76ers retain confidence despite their Knicks deficit 

Philadelphia went down 2-0 with their loss on Monday. Nevertheless, the team has what it takes to overcome and get back into the series. If there is anybody who can help lead the team to a comeback it is reigning MVP Joel Embiid.

Embiid has dealt with serious knee ailments but he is showing heart and putting forth his best effort in the playoffs. Moreover, Embiid reassured everyone that his team would find a way to stop the Knicks after Monday night’s game.

“We’re gonna win this series. We’re gonna win this. We know what we’ve got to fix. We did a better job today, so we’re gonna fix it. We’re the better team and we’re gonna keep fighting“, Embiid said, per SNY Knicks.

Embiid’s confidence is a seed that ready to grow and help the 76ers improve despite their down start to the series.

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