Knicks coach Rick Brunson celebrates with Donte DiVincenzo after DiVincenzo...

Knicks coach Rick Brunson celebrates with Donte DiVincenzo after DiVincenzo hit two big three-pointers to beat the the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 2 in their first-round NBA playoff series at Madison Square Garden on Monday. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

If you put your ear down to the ground Tuesday morning, you can probably still hear the echoes of wild celebration outside Madison Square Garden after the Knicks' 104-101 comeback win on Monday night. But you might not need to since Knicks fans might still be in the streets, chanting all sorts of celebratory missives.

And maybe more likely than the fans still celebrating, if you peeked inside the doors of Madison Square Garden you can imagine that Josh Hart is still scrambling around the court, looking for another body to check, another ball to rip away even as the MSG crew was trying to remove the court and ready the ice for the Rangers' playoff game. If you looked at Tom Thibodeau’s office in Westchester you’d see a light on, figuring out how to fix the flaws even in victory.

Joel Embiid was boldly claiming after the game was over with the Knicks now holding a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, “We should be 2-0. So we’re good. We’re going to win this series . . . But we’re the better team and we're gonna keep fighting.” But if it was a fight there was little doubt that the Sixers suffered a knockout in this game.

Philadelphia could argue that they were the better team — or at least had the two best players — in the first two games. But the Knicks held a 2-0 lead because they just fought harder, and that’s not an anomaly. Instead, it is the very essence of this Knicks team.

“We don't give up,” Isaiah Hartenstein said, still in his uniform after the game, scratches and bruises like tattoos across his neck and arms. “I think there's a lot of teams that probably would have gave up in that situation. I mean, it starts with Thibs. He always believes no game is ever safe. He kind of instilled it in us so it starts with him and the whole team just buys in.

"So we had a belief that we'll come back and it worked out.”

The Garden went wild and the upper deck was shaking when Jalen Brunson bounced in a three-point field goal with 27 seconds left and when Donte DiVincenzo connected on the go-ahead three with 13 seconds remaining.. But the made baskets, as much as they will go down in franchise folklore, a positive memory for history to counter Reggie Miller's eight points in nine seconds nearly 30 years ago, will take their place alongside Larry Johnson’s four-point play.

The New York Knicks battled from behind in Game 2 and came up big to come away with a 104-101 win over the 76ers, NewsdayTV's Steve Popper reports. Credit: Newsday

It took the Knicks 21.3 seconds to get their deciding eight points, turning the five-point deficit into the 104-101 win. But the Knicks' celebration, as wild as it was, is tempered by the reality that it actually took 48 minutes to get it done, 48 minutes of hand-to-hand combat.

“I think we have the right mindset,” Thibodeau said. “The mentality to be mentally tough when you’re facing adversity and then whatever’s necessary to be able to accomplish that and overcome whatever is in front of you and that’s a tribute to all those guys, the way they work every day.”

The Knicks have gotten this far in the series on that mindset, ripping balls from the hands of the Sixers, hustling past them for loose balls and rebounds — plays like Hart ripping the ball from Tyrese Maxey to set up DiVincenzo's go-ahead three will likely linger in Thibodeau’s memories longer than the three-point field goals.

But the Knicks still will need the shots and skill from Brunson to finish this. Maxey has dominated offensively for Philadelphia and despite his clear physical struggles, Embiid has been hard to stop. Brunson has endured 8-for-26 and 8-for-29 shooting performances.

“The one thing about this team: No one really cares who’s doing what, who gets the credit for what,” Brunson said. “We just want to go out there and win. I said it last time: I could play bad again and we win, that’s fine for me. Obviously, I want to play better, but to the point where we’re all sticking together no matter what, whatever the situation is, we’re gonna have each other’s back. So whatever’s working at the time, we’re just gonna keep going to it.”


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