The Knicks’ Jalen Brunson shoots over Joel Embiid and Kelly...

The Knicks’ Jalen Brunson shoots over Joel Embiid and Kelly Oubre Jr. of the Philadelphia 76ers during the first quarter in Game 2 of their NBA Eastern Conference first-round playoff series on Monday at Madison Square Garden. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Once again, Jalen Brunson was having a horrible night.

He forced shot after shot. Some rattled in and out. Some, with defenders draped all over him, wildly missed the mark. And still, he kept shooting, believing that his karma would change.

And then, when it seemed way too late for anything to matter, it did. Brunson finally came up big when the Knicks needed him most.

His three-pointer with 27.4 seconds left ignited a comeback that was so improbable that the Philadelphia 76ers could be haunted by it for the rest of the spring and summer as the Knicks took a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series with a 104-101 win at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.

Brunson had missed four straight shots in the final minutes when Donte DiVincenzo found him in the corner. He had been so bad that you could almost hear the collective wince from fans as he went up for the three-pointer.

Then all hell broke loose. Here’s what happened in the span of 14.3 seconds: Brunson’s three-pointer bounced off the rim and in. Josh Hart stole the ball from Tyrese Maxey and Hart threw it to DiVincenzo, who missed a three. But Isaiah Hartenstein rebounded it and threw it back out to DiVincenzo, who hit the go-ahead three with 13.1 seconds left.

The Knicks had gone from losing home-court advantage to clearly getting under the skin of the 76ers.

“We should be [up] 2-0, so we’re good. We should be winning this series,” Philadelphia center Joel Embiid said. “We’re going to win this. We know what we’ve got to fix. We did a better job today, so we’re going to fix it. But we’re the better team and we’re going to keep fighting.”

The Knicks are the better team in the win-loss column despite the fact that Brunson has had two bad games.

He had 24 points on Monday but shot 8-for-29, including 1-for-6 on threes. He is 16-for-55 overall and 2-for-12 from outside the arc in the two games.

“I just love the way he fired,” coach Tom Thibodeau said of Brunson’s final shot. “Just keep going. You never know when something changes. He just rebounded the ball, he was playmaking, he was not hesitating.

“They are paying a lot of attention to him, which is opening up other things. He just keeps going. I want all our guys to do that.”

Brunson usually is pretty good at turning the page and bouncing back from a poor game. And that’s exactly what he had in Game 1, one of his worst in recent memory. Brunson turned the ball over five times and missed 18 of his 26 shots and five of his six three-pointers.

“They’ve all done a great job,” Brunson said of the 76ers’ defenders. “I have to be better and I will at some point.”

Brunson’s stats wouldn’t be as shocking if he hadn’t been the league’s fourth-leading scorer in the regular season. It was Brunson who pushed the Knicks into the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference by averaging 28.7 points, 6.7 assists and 3.6 rebounds and shooting 40% from three-point range in 77 regular-season games.

Brunson was named player of the week four times and player of the month once. He scored at least 40 points 11 times, cracked the 50-point mark twice and put up a career-high 61 points against the Spurs in March.

Nicolas Batum did a good job on Brunson in the playoffs when he was with the Clippers and Brunson was with the Mavericks three years ago, holding him to 18 points in the last four games of the first-round matchup. Batum was on him again in the fourth quarter Saturday when he was struggling to make something happen.

“It’s not easy to stop that guy, but I think we did a good job,” Batum said after practice Sunday. “We expect him to be more aggressive. I don’t think he’s going to be happy with an 8-for-26, so he’s gonna try and correct that. So everybody guarding him will have to do a better job tomorrow. We’ll do it as a team as well and see what happens.”

Brunson rarely puts up two clunkers in a row. In fact, some of his biggest games have come after off nights. His 50-point game against Phoenix in which he went 9-for-9 from three-point range came just two days after a head-scratching performance against Utah in which he was 0-for-6 from three-point range.

Thibodeau wasn’t worried about Brunson, who he says is responsible for a lot more on the court than putting the ball in the basket.

“Missed shots are part of the game,” Thibodeau said in his pregame news conference Monday. “As long as you are taking your shots. I was pleased he stayed aggressive and created a lot of good offense for us. Again, we scored 111 points and he had a direct impact on us scoring those points.”


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