Knicks’ Jalen Brunson driving towards the basket with Kelly Oubre...

Knicks’ Jalen Brunson driving towards the basket with Kelly Oubre Jr the Philadelphia Seventy Sixers trailing during the first quarter of Game 2 in the 1st round of at Madison Square Garden. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

GREENBURGH — When the Knicks finished off the Game 2 win Monday some players celebrated with former Knicks stars, celebrities and the 19,812 loud fans sticking around at Madison Square Garden. But what the Knicks hear from the crowd Thursday night will be something far different.

With the series shifting to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the Knicks know they will leave the warm embrace of New York City and the wild celebrations that spilled out onto the streets. They know that the reception will be different in a city where the football stadium originally included a jail.

That might seem like something the Knicks would not embrace, but armed with a two games to none in the best-of-seven playoff series, they insist they are looking forward to the hostility.

“I love going to Philly,” Josh Hart said after the Knicks practice. “Great place to play. Their fans, they make it a hostile environment and that’s what you want on the road. We look forward to it. We know they’re going to bring their best shot.

“I think it’s not a road game unless there’s a hostile environment. Philly brings that. That’s something as competitors you love. Obviously, Knicks fans travel great. I’m sure they are going to be Knicks fans on the road. But when you’re on the road it helps you just kind of really focus on what you have on the court and in the locker room.”

“It’s fun,” Jalen Brunson said. “It’s a test to see where you are as a team. In those environments, you have no choice but to stick together. We know that it’s going to be loud, it’s going to be pretty cool to see their fan base, so it’s just another opportunity for us

“There’s pros and cons involved. Obviously you want to see Knick fans wherever you go. And sometimes being in those environments like that, it’s just a cool atmosphere to be a part of. So I’m excited for the opportunity.”

For some of the Knicks — Hart, Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo — it is sort of a home away from home, even if they won’t be welcomed that way Thursday. All three starred at Villanova, winning national championships as they played their home games in the arena. But if the social media outrage from Philadelphia 76ers fans in response to the Villanova men’s basketball account on “X” posting a congratulatory message to the trio is any indication, they are not returning as local heroes.

“That's so stupid. Villanova's in our blood, bro,” Hart said. “That's a bond that goes deeper than where you're from or who you're rooting for or whatever. Like we have a bond there that goes beyond basketball, that goes beyond any of that stuff.

“So for Philly fans to be mad about that, I think that's idiotic. That's who we are. We're a family. We played for the ones that come before us there and that's how it is there. So I don't care about it. I think it's idiotic that Philly fans are mad about it. Because whether they like it or not, Villanova's in our blood.”

“In their eyes, [Villanova is] not a Philly school,” Brunson said. “But when we win, apparently we’re a Philly school.”

So there will be no welcome home message other than the majority of the 20,318 roaring their venom. If the Garden crowd lifted the Knicks, the hope is that hunkering down  in Philly will push the Knicks to make a stand.

The 76ers started griping after Game 2 — angry with the officiating and expressing a belief that they are still the better team. They are expected to get De’Anthony Melton back, who has played just seven games since Dec. 30 as he has rehabilitated a spinal injury. Add all of this to the atmosphere and the Knicks see the challenge.

“It’s road mentality,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I think you start with your defense and your rebounding. Take care of the ball. That puts you in position to win. Just concentrate on what goes into winning, and you don’t get lost in the emotion. We know that they got fans there. We’ll have fans there, as well.

“To me, it’s your concentration. It’s using good judgment. It’s using maximum effort. Those are the things that you need to win. And so, be disciplined and we know our defense has been good, our rebounding has been good and taking care of the ball has been good.”


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