Miracle on 33rd Street

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Maybe Warden Samuel Norton said it best in “The Shawshank Redemption” when he saw Andy Dufresne’s cell was empty and uttered the phrase, “Lord, it’s a miracle.”

The Knicks pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in their playoff history as they scored the last 8 points of the game in the final 27 seconds to stun the Philadelphia 76ers with an incredible 104-101 win in game two of their first round series at a frenzied Madison Square Garden last night. The World’s Most Famous Arena shook like it felt the earthquake that hit the tri-state area 17 days ago.

There’s been some pretty wild finishes but that was right up there with the best of ‘em and that just shows you what the playoffs are all about,” said Coach Tom Thibodeau who was one of man who couldn’t believe what they just saw.

The win gave the Knicks a 2-0 lead in the series with game three scheduled for Philadelphia on Thursday night.

The way this game ended brought back memories of May, 1995 when Reggie Miller stunned the Knicks by scoring eight points in the final 8.9 seconds of the fourth quarter to give Indiana a 107-105 win in game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Knicks went on to lose that series in seven games.

The Knicks never quit and they put on a clinic of grit, hustle and resilience to score a miraculous victory. “We don’t give up, I think there’s a lot of teams that probably woulda gave up in that situation,” Isaiah Hartenstein said.

Jalen Brunson shot 8 of 29 and led the Knicks with 24 points. He was 1 for 6 from three but that one he made was huge. Donte DiVincenzo rebounded from a sub par game 1 to score 19 points including a huge go ahead three pointer with :13 seconds remaining.

Josh Hart scored 19 of his 21 points in the first half and was a big factor in keeping the Knicks in the game. The Knicks forward who played a full 48 minutes had 15 rebounds and made some huge plays down the stretch.

Tyrese Maxey led all scorers with 35 points while Joel Embiid played a courageous 39 minutes and scored 34 points as he tried to gut it out with a bum knee.

The Knicks led 84-79 entering the fourth quarter and then built a 90-82 lead with less than eight minutes remaining, but the Sixers went on a 18-6 run to put them behind the eight ball. Maxey, who scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, hit a three to put the Sixers up 100-96 with 1:09 remaining.

After Brunson missed a pair of shots, Kyle Lowry was fouled but he made one of two to put Philly up by five, 101-96.

With 27 seconds remaining, the Knicks got a lucky bounce when Brunson’s three point attempt from the corner bounced off the rim and went in to make it 101-99.

A three goes in and you get a steal and you get another three, and the next thing you know the game changes, that’s how quick it can change and you need good fortune,” Thibodeau said. “Sometimes the ball bounces your way. We had a couple that bounced around the rim and went in so that’s part of it too.”

On the ensuing inbounds pass, Hart, who was fabulous all night, stole the ball from Maxey. DiVincenzo missed a three, but Hartenstein, who made all seven of his shots and scored all 14 of his points in the second half, got the offensive rebound. Hartenstein got the ball back to O.G. Anunoby who passed to DiVincenzo who made the biggest shot of his career, a go ahead three pointer with :13 seconds left that gave the Knicks a 102-101 lead.

It was huge, it was loud as hell in there [the Garden],” DiVincenzo said. “After I missed the first one, I was really, really, really, really hoping that Isaiah got it because I knew that the rotation of everything I was gonna get a second look. Thank God he [Hartenstein] got the offensive rebound.”

Philly still had a chance to pull it out but Hartenstein blocked Maxey’s driving lay up and O.G. Anunoby got the rebound and was fouled. Anunoby hit both free throws to make it 104-101 with 6.1 seconds left.

The Sixers had one last chance to tie it but Embiid missed a three pointer and the Knicks came away with one of the most incredible wins in franchise history.

The Knicks were playing uphill for most of the game and didn’t take their first lead until Brunson hit a short bank shot to make it 68-67 with 4:00 left in the third quarter.

The Knicks led 94-89 with a little over four minutes remaining, but Embiid scored and was fouled as the shot clock was winding down to make it a two point game. Maxey tied the game with a lay up but Hartenstein scored on a short floater to give the Knicks a 96-94 lead with 3:30 left.

Lowry made one of two free throws to make it a one point game and after Brunson missed a fadeaway, Maxey scored on a pull up jumper to give Philly a 97-96 lead with 2:22 left. Maxey’s three with a little over a minute left put the Sixers up four to set up a memorable finish.

Game three is Thursday night at the Wells Fargo center but the Knicks have a 2-0 advantage instead of the series being tied at a game apiece. “Doesn’t mean much, job isn’t finished. Only two games, you have to win four,” Hartenstein said.

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