The Sixers (2-3) hosted the New York Knicks (3-2) in Game 6 of their first round series on Thursday. Philadelphia wanted to force a series-deciding Game 7. New York wanted to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Joel Embiid and three key reserves did all they could, but too many starters came up short as the Sixers fell, 118-115.

Before we get to the game, some notes.

Contextual Notes

The Knicks were without the services of Julius Randle, who is out for the season after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder.

Bojan Bogdanovic underwent surgeries to repair foot and wrist injuries this week and is out for the season.

Tom Thibodeau started Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, OG Anunoby, Josh Hart, and Isaiah Hartenstein.

The Sixers were without the services of Robert Covington, who has a bone bruise in his left knee.

Nick Nurse started Kyle Lowry, Tyrese Maxey, Kelly Oubre Jr., Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid.

Inside The Game

- For the first time in this series, it was the Knicks who came out blazing hot, unfazed by a heavy Philadelphia crowd. The most striking part for Philadelphia was that the punctures were coming from more than one source. It wasn't just Brunson surgically carving the Sixers to get whatever he wanted.

DiVincenzo knocked down a wing three off the catch, and then laced his second pulling up to beat Philadelphia's coverage below the level of the screen. When the Sixers sent the kitchen sink to stop dribble penetration, the Knicks left the ball off to Hartenstein, who continued his rampage of floaters to punish Philadelphia for throwing multiple guys at the ball.

Brunson got his, as was expected. But, for the first time since Games 1 and 2 - hell, maybe for the first time all series - the Knicks had more than one source of primary offense. It wasn't just Brunson creating shots for himself and setting the table for others. The task became stopping dribble penetration and self-creation from multiple foes, and it sent Philadelphia's defense into a degree of rotation that had not really been required in the first five games of this series.

- The boat was taking on water quickly. The Knicks were riding a heater from everywhere. Embiid was the only Sixer who didn't look overcome by the growing fire and energy in the building in the first quarter. I expected the Knicks to make life far more difficult for Maxey from the jump after his heroics at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

But, given that the game was seemingly getting away from the Sixers so quickly, Maxey's struggles loomed large. He couldn't shed DiVincenzo on the perimeter to put pressure on the rim. The Knicks funneled him towards the sidelines as much as possible, shading him at first to stunt any potential dribble penetration and then committing to traps to get the ball out of his hands. Even when Maxey was able to find the driving edge, he couldn't get going against New York's low-man rotations.

- With the superhero cape unavailable for Maxey in Game 6, that left Embiid, who was extremely up and down in Game 5, to decide how this battle would play out. Fortunately for the Sixers, Philadelphia got a completely different basketball player in Game 6.

Embiid looked the part from the jump, calmly scoring Philadelphia's first nine points of the game. Unlike in Game 5, he was forceful in attacking the rim, squaring his body to the Knick in his way and exploding with his first step as best he could. He committed to getting to the basket or got fouled trying.

The big guy made a concerted effort to play bully ball, too. He knew Hartenstein was too small to keep him at bay, so Embiid backed him as close to the basket as possible for easy scores at the rim.

Embiid eventually ran low on fuel in the fourth quarter, the act of carrying the team for three quarters proving too taxing to go full terminator mode as the Knicks threw extra bodies at him on touches by the left elbow and short corner in crunch time.

Embiid wasn't perfect; a negative assist-to-turnover ratio, off-target jumpers as the fourth quarter drew closer to the buzzer. But, he fouled out in the game's final minute with 39 points and 13 rebounds. The box score does not capture the handful of high-effort defensive plays he made at the rim in his 40 minutes of action.

Embiid left it all on the court, exiting the best playoffs of his career with nothing but pride. Even in defeat.

- Buddy Hield, Cam Payne, and Nico Batum seized the moment when the non-Embiid starters were drawing dead to start the game. Philadelphia trailed by 19 points when Nurse replaced Embiid with Paul Reed in the first quarter. It was an unusual substitution pattern for Philadelphia in this series. But, a couple of staggered substitutions later, all of Payne, Hield, Batum, and Embiid shared the floor. The Sixers had dug themselves out of a 28-9 hole to make it a 36-22 affair by the start of the second quarter.

A couple of threes from Payne and Batum hit the mark to get Philadelphia rolling in the first quarter, and Hield took care of the rest in the second quarter. Stuck to the bench for the majority of this series, Hield scored 17 points in the second quarter. More than double the next most productive Sixer. His unconscious shooting helped flip a 14-point deficit into a three-point halftime lead. The Sixers overcame a 22-point deficit in less than a full half because of Embiid and those three reserves. By halftime, the Sixers' reserves outscored the Knicks', 30-0.

Spare Thoughts

- Gutsy move by Nurse to take Embiid out with the team threatening to put both legs in the grave in the first quarter. Funny enough, the Sixers actually won those non-Embiid minutes. Upset of the series! Also funny enough, they were still down double-digits because of how putrid every starter not named Embiid was in their first stints of the game. Also upset of the series!

- The way Brunson was officiated in this series compared to the way Maxey was was like watching two different sports. I respect Maxey's restraint on some of those no-calls because the contrast with those of the star guard opposite him was unacceptable.

- Harris' tenure with the Sixers ended fittingly - 0 points on 0-for-2 shooting, four rebounds, and three assists in more than 29 minutes of action. No sugar-coating that one. I would say it was pure cardio, but that would require some heart. He must've left that organ in the visitor's locker room at Madison Square Garden, boarding the train home without it after helping tremendously in Game 5.

The Sixers head into the offseason after six hard-fought games with the New York Knicks. They will have upwards of $50 million in cap space and draft picks to re-shape the roster with Harris' contract off the books. Lick your wounds now, but it's not difficult to see why the future looks promising.

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