Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey combined for 69 points in the Philadelphia 76ers’ last-minute loss to the New York Knicks in Game 2 of the first round of the 2024 NBA Playoffs. Both came into Monday as questionable with injury and illness, but Embiid’s 34, 10, 6 and Maxey’s 35, 9, 10 weren’t enough to win on the road. Philadelphia had a five-point lead with less than a minute to go, but a Josh Hart steal and a Donte DiVincenzo three-pointer helped the Knicks secure the victory and go up 2-0 in the series.

Despite having their two-star players and a late lead, the Sixers couldn’t hold off the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. One reason for the loss could also be the officiating, and the 76ers said they intend to file an official grievance with the NBA for multiple missed calls throughout the game. Philadelphia head coach Nick Nurse had complaints about the referees after the game.

“I called timeout. The referee looked right at me and ignored me. It went into Tyrese. I called timeout again. Then the melee started,” Nurse said. “I guess I’ve got to run out on the floor or do something to get his attention. I needed a timeout to advance it. It would’ve been good. I couldn’t get it.”

Embiid, who played on Monday despite leaving Game 1 after being poked in the eye and dealing with a lingering knee injury, also raised questions about the officiating throughout the series. Regardless, he claimed the Sixers are still in a position to advance to the second round.

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“We’re good,” Embiid said. “We’re going to win this series. We’re going to win this. …We’re the better team.”

Maxey missed the team’s morning shootaround and was questionable coming into Game 2 with an illness. Despite that, he led the team in points, defensive rebounds, assists and minutes, playing all but four minutes the entire night. He hit three three-pointers in the first quarter to help the Sixers grab an early seven-point lead, but along with Embiid, needed help to get the job done against the much more balanced Knicks team. Maxey and Embiid were the only players for Philadelphia to score more than 10 points on Monday night and are averaging a combined 65.5 points per game in the series, more than half of the team’s 102.5 playoff average.

For the Knicks, the Game 2 win was something they could have only dreamed of with a minute to play. They were down most of the night, shooting only 40.7% from the floor as a team, but had a solid second half to bring the game back within closing distance.

With 30 seconds left, Jalen Brunson hit a three-pointer to bring the lead down to two. Then, Hart stole the ball from Maxey on the inbound pass, feeding it to DiVincenzo to give New York the lead. DiVincenzo missed, but Isaiah Hartenstein came up with the offensive rebound, and the ball eventually got back to DiVincenzo, where he hit a three-pointer to take a one-point lead with 13 seconds left.

Hartenstein then blocked Maxey’s layup attempt with six seconds left, giving the Knicks the ball and two free throws. Maxey ran up the court for one final tying attempt and passed it to Embiid, who tried a last-second three-pointer but missed.

The Knicks finished the last 30 seconds of the game on an 8-0 run, as the first team in playoff history to win a game in regulation after being down by five with half a minute remaining. New York had five players score at least 10 points, with Brunson and Hart leading the way with stats of 24, 8, 6 and 21, 15, 3 respectively.

The Knicks won the first two games of the series at home but with an average margin of victory of just five points. The 76ers have been unhealthy but are still getting great performances out of their stars, and now have back-to-back games at home. New York still has the upper hand in the series but must take advantage of a short-staffed Sixers roster that relies heavily on their top talent. The Knicks have Brunson as their undoubted leader, but big games from Hart, DiVincenzo and Hartenstein, like on Monday, are the key to their success.

Game 3 of the series is on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

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