Brunson scores career playoff-high 47 points, leads Knicks over 76ers for 3-1 lead

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jalen Brunson had just finished the highest-scoring game of his playoff career, the highest ever by a New York Knicks player in the postseason, and he was impressed.

Not by his own performance. Brunson loathes talking about that.

He meant by the Knicks fanbase, which came into Philadelphia, took over the arena and made Joel Embiid as miserable as the guys wearing blue.

Brunson scored a career playoff-high 47 points, added 10 assists and the Knicks beat the 76ers 97-92 on Sunday to take a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Brunson had a 41-point game for Dallas against Utah in 2022 and another for the Knicks last year against Miami, but that one came in the Game 6 where the Knicks’ season ended.

He wouldn’t let them lose Sunday and a crowd that seemed split between big Northeast cities had a decidedly Knicks sound down the stretch.

“The Philadelphia fanbase is, I said this before, they’re very relentless and very passionate. I mean, I’m an Eagles fan, I would know,” said Brunson, who won two national championships playing collegiately for Villanova. “But seeing the Knicks here and hearing the Knicks here, it was pretty cool and it’s awesome.”

Not for Embiid, who had to hear Brunson get louder chants of “MVP! MVP!” than the guy who actually won the award last season.

“I love our fans but it was unfortunate. I’m not calling them out, but it is disappointing." Embiid said, adding that he's aware that Knicks fans often make the short train trip for the road games.

“But never seen it (like Sunday) and I’ve been here for 10 years. Yeah, kind of (ticks) me off, especially because Philly is considered a sports town, so ... I don’t think that should happen. It’s not OK."

But Brunson's performance was too marvelous not to cheer as he surpassed the 46 points scored by Bernard King in 1984.

OG Anunoby added 16 points and 14 rebounds, and took on some of the defensive assignment against Embiid in the fourth quarter as the Knicks moved within a victory of getting to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight year.

The No. 2-seeded Knicks can do that with a victory at home on Tuesday night.

Embiid played the entire second half after the 76ers faltered badly when he sat in the first. But the All-Star center, who has been dealing with lingering problems from his surgically repaired left knee that he appeared to reinjure after a dunk in Game 1, and was recently diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a form of facial paralysis, couldn't muster a basket in the fourth quarter.

“Your competitive nature is always going to take over and I felt like they always come back in the game in this series,” Embiid said. “So I was like, I've got nothing to lose, just going to push myself and obviously it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to.”

Embiid finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Tyrese Maxey added 23 points for the 76ers, who will try to force another game at home, which would be Thursday.

Josh Hart missed all seven shots and Donte DiVincenzo missed his first seven. But Hart grabbed 17 rebounds and the Knicks kept going after missed shots, especially when it was clear Embiid didn't have the energy to keep chasing them, and scored 21 second-chance points.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said his team, which finished with a 52-42 rebound advantage, looks at offensive rebounds as valuable shots.

“So we understand how important that is,” he said, “and we’ve got some guys that are great at it. They’re relentless.”

Brunson was in the locker room to start the fourth quarter but returned to hit a basket over Embiid during a 6-0 Knicks run that gave them the lead for good and made it 86-81.

Embiid scored 50 points, his postseason best, to lead the 76ers to a victory in Game 3, He had them off to a great start in Game 4 but Brunson soon became the dominant player on the floor, the first time All-Star finishing 18 of 34 from the field.

Brunson’s shot was off in the two games in New York but whatever was working for the Sixers against him then is gone now. The point guard had 39 on Thursday and is looking like the player who was fourth in the NBA in scoring with 28.7 per game.

Embiid tried to keep pace. With 76ers Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Allen Iverson sitting behind the baseline, he showed how much the current Philadelphia team needs him on the floor. But without getting a rest he wilted late, missing all five shots in the fourth, and finished 7 for 19.

The Knicks played without backup center Mitchell Robinson because of a sprained left ankle, then lost reserve swingman Bojan Bogdanovic to a bruised left ankle after Nicolas Batum fell on him chasing a loose ball after barely a minute of playing time.

So the Knicks relied on the guys they had, with Anunoby playing 47 minutes, Hart 46 and Brunson 43.

The 76ers led by 10 after one quarter. But Philadelphia couldn’t get anything going offensively with Embiid on the bench to start the second and New York capitalized.

The Knicks held the 76ers without a field goal while outscoring them 12-2 to begin the period, with Brunson’s basket shortly after Embiid returned tying it at 29. Maxey hit a 3-pointer for Philadelphia’s first basket of the period nearly halfway through it.

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