Knicks steal Game 2 from 76ers with miraculous 8-0 closing flourish

The Philadelphia 76ers appeared to be heading home with a split at Madison Square Garden before the New York Knicks delivered a miraculous final victory that will go down in Gotham history.

Thanks to an 8-0 spurt in the final 27 seconds that combined luck, incredible hustle and making big shots, the Knicks earned a 104-101 comeback victory over the 76ers on Monday night and took a 2-0 lead during their first match. round series. In typical Knicks fashion, all five players contributed game-winning plays down the stretch.

“There were some pretty crazy finishes,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It was up there with the best of them.” It just shows you what the playoffs are all about. Often it’s about playing here or there and just finding a way to win.

The stage for late-game drama was set when 76ers guard Kyle Lowry missed his second free throw with 47 seconds left and the Knicks trailed 101-96. New York pushed the ball up the court and initially struggled to find a good shot while nearly losing possession during a scramble in the paint. As the shot clock wound down, Donte DiVincenzo found Jalen Brunson in the left corner for a three-point basket that bounced high to the rim before improbably dropping in with 16 seconds left.

Philadelphia then tried to pass the ball back to Tyrese Maxey, who missed the inside pass after Brunson appeared to pull on his waist. Maxey regained possession as he fell to the court, but the 76ers were unable to call a timeout before Knicks guard Josh Hart lunged at him.

“We’re trying to get there quickly,” 76ers coach Nick Nurse said. “We’re not getting there quickly. I call a timeout. The referee looked me straight in the eye and ignored me. (The ball) went to Tyrese (and I) called a timeout again. Then the melee began. I’m not going to say I have to run on the floor or do something to get his attention. I needed some time out to move forward. That would have been good. I didn’t understand. …I just watched the movie just to be sure. I am clearly asking for a time out. I didn’t see if (the referee) was looking at me on the film, but I clearly saw myself calling a timeout twice.

Without any stops, Hart took control of the ball and frantically found DiVincenzo, who missed an open three-pointer from the left wing. New York got another chance, though, thanks to Isaiah Hartenstein, who skied over several 76ers for an offensive rebound and passed the ball to OG Anunoby before crashing down the court.

“It was crazy,” Hart said. “It was hectic. But at that point we had nothing to lose. We have to be as physical as possible (in this situation), and it worked.

Anunoby passed the ball to DiVincenzo, who hit an open three-pointer from the top of the key to give New York a 102-101 lead, sending the Garden into hysteria.

“After missing the first one, I was really, really, really, really hoping that Isaiah would get it because I knew with the rotation I would get a second look,” DiVincenzo said. “Thank God he got the offensive rebound. …I don’t think our confidence has ever wavered. It wasn’t like the game was over. It never is, especially playing for (Thibodeau).

The Knicks held on for the victory with a Hartenstein block by Maxey on the 76ers’ next possession and a pair of free throws by Anunoby with six seconds remaining. Joel Embiid missed a potential game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer, sending the Knicks home with a wild victory.

“The writers always think the games are over,” Thibodeau said. “I never think the games are over. This shows you that you can make up ground very quickly. A three goes in, you get a steal, another three, and the next thing you know, the game changes. That’s how quickly it can change. You need luck. Sometimes the ball bounces in your direction.

Brunson scored a team-high 24 points despite shooting 8-of-29 from the field. All five Knicks starters scored in double figures.

“One thing about this team is that no one really cares who does what or who gets the credit,” Brunson said. “We just want to go out there and win.”

Maxey scored a game-high 35 points in 44 minutes despite being listed as questionable due to illness earlier Monday.

“I can’t turn the ball over,” Maxey said. “I can’t lose the ball. And we have to get the rebound back. …We have to put this behind us now. We have 48 hours to think about it and come up with a plan to get two (wins) at home.

Philadelphia, which has reached the second round in five of the last six seasons, will host Game 3 on Thursday.

“We’re good,” said Embiid, who battled recurring pain in his surgically repaired left knee to post 34 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. “We are going to win this series. We’re going to win this. We know what we need to fix. We did a better job today, so we’ll fix it. We are the better team and we will continue to fight.

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