Josh Hart's hustle, Donte DiVincenzo's late 3-pointer secure Knicks wild Game 2 victory against the Sixers

C.J. Holmes, New York Daily News on

Published in Basketball

NEW YORK — The Philadelphia 76ers continued to leave Josh Hart open in Game 2 after the Knicks guard torched them with four 3-pointers in Game 1. However, while his shots were falling again on Monday, it was Hart’s usual brand of hustle and awareness that helped the Knicks escape victorious.

With the Knicks down two — after a friendly bounce allowed Jalen Brunson‘s corner three to fall to make it a one-possession game — Hart ripped the ball away from Tyrese Maxey on an inbound pass with 16.8 seconds left in regulation to give the Knicks the ball kicking it out to Donte DiVincenzo for the lead. DiVincenzo missed the first, however, Isaiah Hartenstein grabbed the rebound and kicked it to OG Anunoby and got it back out to DiVincenzo who netted his second attempt leading to the Knicks steal of a 104-101 Game 2 victory to take a 2-0 series lead.

Hart, still riding the high of a playoff-best 22 points in Game 1, burned the 76ers once again Monday night at Madison Square Garden. The 29-year-old continued to hoist the open shots he was given without hesitation. He dominated the glass while mucking up the game with scrappy defense and hustle. And his jumper remained scorching hot, as he went 7-of-13 from the field and 4-of-5 from distance in the first half alone.

Perhaps the 76ers did not learn their lesson the first time around. Maybe they assumed that lightning would not strike twice, that a 31% 3-point shooter during the regular season would cool off considerably after a performance some might have described as a fluke.

And, boy, did the Knicks — who shot just 40.7% from the field — need every bit of Harts production in their 104-101 Game 2 win.

Hart and Brunson were the only two Knicks in double figures through two-quarters of play, and the 76ers made Brunson work for all 13 of his points. After shooting 8-of-26 in Game 1, the All-Star guard went 4-of-14 in his first 18 minutes of action in Game 2. His other running mates, Donte DiVincenzo and OG Anunoby, had just eight attempts combined in the first half.

Meanwhile, Tyrese Maxey— who was questionable because of general illness entering the night — poured in 20 points in the first half while Joel Embiid added 16. Philadelphia’s stars came ready to play. But for the second straight game, the Knicks’ top offensive threats were nowhere to be found in the opening minutes.


If not for Hart’s first-half heroics, this was a game that could have gotten ugly for them in a hurry. When Hart walked up to the free throw line late in the third quarter, he was the Knicks guard receiving “MVP” chants — not Brunson.

And through the first two games of the Knicks’ first-round best-of-seven series against the 76ers, that is exactly what No. 3 has been: New York’s most valuable player.

If not for Hart’s efforts, it is not a stretch to say that the Knicks could have been staring down the barrel at an 0-2 deficit as the series shifts to Wells Fargo Center for Game 3 on Thursday. He was limited to just two points in the second half but finished with 21 points and a game-high 15 rebounds in 48 minutes.

Embiid and Maxey still got theirs on Monday, scoring 34 and 35 points, respectively. And perhaps that is exactly what the 76ers want — to let Hart score as many points as he pleases as long as their stars play like stars and Brunson, DiVincenzo and Anunoby are kept in check.

But Philadelphia’s gamble on Hart has been a losing proposition so far. An X-factor emerges in every series, and so far in this Eastern Conference slugfest, he has been the difference for New York.


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