Knicks Do-It-All Wing Sounds off on Sixers’ Disrespectful Strategy

Knicks' Josh Hart

Getty Josh Hart #3 of the New York Knicks celebrates his three-point shot late in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers in game one of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs.

New York Knicks‘ do-it-all forward  Josh Hart made the Philadelphia 76ers pay dearly for leaving him open from the 3-point line and daring him to shoot.

Hart exploded for 13 points in the fourth quarter, including three clutch 3-pointers, as he helped the Knicks take Game 1 of their first-round NBA playoff series with a 111-104 victory at Madison Square Garden on April 20.

“I knew I was going to be left open, disrespected on the 3-point line, and if you base it off numbers in the regular season, I think I shot like 30 percent. So it’s a smart game plan,” Hart told reporters after finishing with 22 points and 13 rebounds. “For me, it’s just continue to take shots. Make them respect me on the three-point line.”

Early Misses Did Not Break Josh Hart’s Confidence

Hart entered the final quarter shooting just 2 of 7 from the field and 1 of 4 from the 3-point line. His barrage of 3s started at the 5:08 mark after the Sixers pulled within 91-90. He extended the Knicks lead to 94-90. The Sixers kept on coming back and daring him to shoot.

Hart obliged.

His second 3-pointer in the fourth quarter gave the Knicks a 101-95 lead with 1:05 left. His last 3-pointer for a 107-100 Knicks lead served as the dagger that pierced through the Sixers’ heart with 60 seconds left.

Their game plan was just to sag off of me,” Hart told ESPN’s sideline reporter Lisa Salters. So that’s something that I just got up a lot of reps this week. Just shot after shot after shot, and the biggest thing for me, after I missed three or four [attempts], I didn’t lose that confidence. I just kept firing. I’ve been working on it. So I got to do it.”

Sixers’ Game Plan

The Sixers made the gamble because Hart is shooting a career-low 31% from the 3-point line this season.

While Hart shot a blistering 51.9% accuracy in his first 25 games with the Knicks last year after they acquired him via midseason trade, he couldn’t recapture it this season.

Part of his shooting struggles was his role constantly shifting from shooting guard to small forward and then power forward following the injuries to Julius Randle and OG Anunoby.

“Some days it’s scoring, some days it’s rebounding, some days it’s playmaking,” Hart told reporters. “I don’t think it gave myself any more confidence, I think it might have given guys on the team, the coaches, more confidence in me playing a different role if I have to.”

Now he’s playing almost exclusively as a power forward with Randle out of the season. With his shooting coming alive, the Sixers might have to rethink their game plan.

Key Factor for Knicks

The Knicks’ outside shooting will be a key factor in the series as the Sixers play a 1-2-2 zone to cut off Jalen Brunson‘s driving lane.

The Sixers succeeded in limiting Brunson to 22 points on 8 of 26 shooting. But Brunson’s supporting cast stepped up and connected on 16 of 35 3-pointers in Game 1.

Hart went 4 of 8 while Miles McBride and Bojan Bogdanovic combined for eight 3s off the bench.

“We were sitting in a zone for a lot of it. But our zone shifts — obviously you are trying to guard certain guys,” Sixers coach Nick Nurse told reporters after the loss. “Give them credit. I think we’re probably okay with some of those shots, but they hit them. Give them credit for stepping into them and hitting them.”

The Knicks will aim to go 2-0 when the series resumes on Monday, April 22, at the Garden.





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