Sixers aim to clean up on glass in Game 2 vs. Knicks


NEW YORK — When Philadelphia 76ers forward Nicolas Batum was asked Sunday what stood out about rewatching his team’s Game 1 loss to the New York Knicks, his answer was immediate and short.

“Rebound,” Batum said.

While there were many reasons the 76ers could point to for falling short in a game they had chances to win on the road, it was New York’s offensive rebounding that stood out.

The Knicks finished Game 1 with a staggering 23 offensive rebounds — including seven by Mitchell Robinson alone — that led to a 26-8 advantage in second-chance points, something that came up repeatedly during Philly’s off-day media availability ahead of Game 2 back at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.

“In a playoff game, that’s way too much,” Batum said, referring to the offensive rebounds and second-chance points. “Win the game. We still had a chance to win the game. That’s the worst part it, we still had a chance.

“We’ve got to control the rebounds, and we knew it. They’re maybe the best, no, the best, at that in the whole league. They played great, they play aggressive and they go chase every ball, and they did that last night, so we lost on that.”

That Philadelphia struggled in that area in Game 1 wasn’t a shock, as it was a potential pivot point entering the series. The Knicks were the league’s best offensive rebounding team this season, with both Robinson (tied for first) and Isaiah Hartenstein (seventh) ranking in the top 10 individually in the league. Philadelphia, partially because Embiid missed half the season, ranked 25th in defensive rebounding percentage.

Embiid, meanwhile, has not been as aggressive as he normally is on the boards since returning earlier this month from a two-month layoff after a procedure on the lateral meniscus in his left knee. Put that together, and Philadelphia now is spending the 48 hours between Games 1 and 2 examining how that gap can be narrowed as it attempts to tie the series at a game apiece.

“A lot of things got confirmed from what we all saw live,” 76ers coach Nick Nurse said with a smile, when asked what rewatching the tape from Game 1 showed him. “Listen, we did a couple things really, really well, as far as schematically and what we were trying to do. We didn’t do one thing very well.

“We let them play to one of their strengths, like, absolutely to the max.”

The question now shifts to what the 76ers do to combat it? Nurse hinted at the possibility of Paul Reed and Embiid playing together some in Game 2. He also spoke to some general changes that Philadelphia could employ to better keep New York off the glass.

“You’re talking about better blocking out,” Nurse said. “More physical blocking out, getting more people involved. Try to outnumber the guy and then at some point you gotta jump. You gotta be able to match their athleticism and jump. The ball goes up between all of us right now, whoever jumps the highest might get it, you know what I mean? So at some point we gotta do that as well.”

Nurse also downplayed any issues with Embiid’s knee moving forward after he briefly left Game 1.

“Pretty good,” Nurse said when asked how Embiid was feeling Sunday. “I think. I mean, I asked him how he’s feeling and he said, ‘Pretty good.'”



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