Brunson & Hart Discuss Intense Physicality vs. 76ers Compared to Pacers

Knicks reflect on their intense playoff battles and injuries.

by Abdullah Magsi
Brunson & Hart Discuss Intense Physicality vs. 76ers Compared to Pacers
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Despite an injury-riddled roster, the New York Knicks nearly clawed their way to the Eastern Conference finals, powered by Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart. Brunson, the All-Star, shouldered the offensive burden, while Hart, the underrated heart and soul of Tom Thibodeau’s lineup, provided indispensable support.

Together, they embodied the gritty, resilient, and relentless spirit of the Knicks, who fell just short of their goal due to a spate of injuries. Hart and Brunson are now enjoying a well-deserved offseason. Although the seven-game loss to the Indiana Pacers in the semifinals was a bitter pill to swallow, especially losing on their home floor, the two have moved on and are reflecting on their postseason journey.

When comparing the Knicks’ first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers to their semifinal bout against the Pacers, Josh Hart shared his insights: “The Indiana [Pacers] series took a much greater toll on our bodies than the Philly [76ers] series”.

Jalen Brunson also weighed in on the differences between the two series: “Both series had different levels of physicality. The physicality against Philly was just crazy. We weren’t that deep at that time because we had so many injuries”.

Embiid's Physical Dominance

Joel Embiid’s presence with the Philadelphia 76ers necessitated a physical contest. “The Process” occasionally stepped outside but often sought to dominate the Knicks inside.

Embiid’s physicality and skills commanded significant attention. The undermanned Knicks, who later lost Mitchell Robinson to a season-ending injury, struggled to cope. Hart and even Brunson occasionally found themselves pitted against the 7-foot, 280-pound Embiid in the post.

New York’s undersized lineup had to be physical to avoid being overwhelmed in the paint. In contrast, the Indiana Pacers’ high-octane offense lacked a player of Embiid’s mold. Indiana relied on ball movement, athletic wings, and speedy guards to exhaust their opponents.

Hart elaborated on the toll of the Pacers series: “There was never a time during the Philly series where I felt, ‘Damn! I’m tired.’” Looking ahead, the Knicks will be playoff contenders next season.

Despite playing nearly the entire season with one leg, they nearly made it to the Eastern Conference finals. Some believe that if healthy, they could have challenged the Boston Celtics. Although that scenario didn’t materialize due to injuries, the Knicks are determined to settle unfinished business next season.

If they can stay healthy, they will be serious contenders for Eastern Conference supremacy. Hart, Brunson, OG Anunoby, Donte DiVincenzo, Miles McBride, Mitchell Robinson, and Julius Randle will form a formidable core.

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