Knicks Jalen Brunson finds space, dribbles past defenders and scores: “That's our drive.”

PHILADELPHIA – Ferdinand Magellan has nothing on Jalen Brunson.

One of the great scouts in history has never had to swerve around the catcher and look into the mammoth eyes like Joel Embiid. The hope in those moments — when the Philadelphia 76ers cover Brunson while Embiid stands in his way — is to create space. Discoveries don't come nearly as easily when the terrain is already occupied.

However, Bronson continues to find him.

Maneuver toward Embiid, and he's at risk for a blocked or modified shot. Pull it early, and the 76ers get what they want: a quick jumper from an inefficient part of the field.

Bronson may not have sailed through the uncharted waters of the Pacific. But when the ground seems to have only a few unknown cracks — then Brunson jumps somewhere new, as he did repeatedly during the New York Knicks' 97-92 Game 4 win on Sunday.

Put him inside the defense with the Sixers' relentless defenders behind him and Embiid waiting underneath, where every nook and cranny of the hardwood seems covered, and Brunson will plant his flag where no man has ever set foot before.

“I'm exploring a lot,” Bronson said. “I see a lot and I just read what's going on, what (Embiid is doing), and then I figure something out.”

On Sunday, there weren't many problems Bronson couldn't solve. Wherever the Sixers went, it eluded them.

The Knicks point guard went on to have a franchise playoff-record 47 points to go with 10 assists, giving the Knicks a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. New York now has three chances to win at once. Two of those, including the next location, will be in familiar territory for Bronson, Madison Square Garden. If they move, they would have a date with the Milwaukee Bucks or Indiana Pacers in the second round.

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Life might not be as difficult for Brunson against either of these opponents, both of whom lack the defensive presence on the perimeter that the Sixers have. But despite a solid game plan of relentless effort, endless physicality and smart play after smart play, Philadelphia no longer has one of the league's most elusive scorers.

Wherever the 76ers go, whatever they do, Brunson moves around to open up spots and shred a top-tier defense.

“Jalen is a great player,” OG Anunoby said. “You come to expect it. You expect him to make every shot.”

Early in Game 4, Brunson attacked the rim. Then he became comfortable with his float. He made sure to prioritize the short, mid-range shot over the longer 16-foot shot. As he circled around the catch with one defender on his back and the other in front of him, he drifted into the sweet spot between them and transformed into a familiar being, one with the mentality of a 1990s power forward, with the size of a Big East point guard and the cartographic genius of Marco Polo.

“That's our engine,” Josh Hart said.

Nyx moves behind him.

They do it because of defense. Anunoby was magical in Game 4, and had his greatest performance of the series, scoring 16 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. He started the game in a modified defensive role, guarding Kelly Oubre Jr. and roaming up the middle, cutting off driving lanes while also having to close down on shooters.

In the fourth quarter, Anunoby turned to Embiid, whose body was strong. The Sixers center did not take a shot during the final period and scored only one point during that period.

They do this because of the bounce. Once again, the Knicks crushed the 76ers on the glass, pulling down 15 offensive rebounds on a day when Mitchell Robinson did not play due to a sprained left ankle.

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But they also do it because more often than not, the team that wins a playoff series is the team with the best player.

During Game 3, when Embiid scored 50 points, he owned that title. It is no coincidence that Philadelphia won that night.

But on Sunday, during a hackneyed series in which high-level basketball was overshadowed by referee-induced drama, Brunson shifted the focus back to the players.

“We needed it,” Hart said. “S—, I start small forward, strong forward, whatever I am, where I never make a shot. I was like Shaq at the free throw line.”

But even when Shaquille O'Neal missed his free throws, he still had Kobe Bryant. Hart still has his engine, Bronson.

Hart may have missed all seven of his shot attempts, but he made up for that with 17 rebounds, five assists and three blocks. He's not the only person Bronson has had to help. Donte DiVincenzo hasn't been knocking down jumpers like expected since draining the game-winner in that messy Game 2. He finished Game 4 with eight points on 3-of-11 shooting. Only Brunson (47), Anunoby (16) and Myles “Deuce” McBride (13) scored In double digits for the Knicks.

Philadelphia threw everything they could at Brunson. Aubrey held on tight to him. Kyle Lowry is getting physical. Nicolas Batum uses his veteran intelligence. Players who are not his primary defenders have locked down Brunson at all times.

In the first two games of this series, Brunson has been nothing like himself, shooting just 29 percent from the field. In the last two games, and Sunday especially, he has punished mismatches. As soon as the 76ers turned a weak defender onto him, he went on the attack. Finished around the edge. He hit hard, a necessary feat when the defense is as ferocious as the Sixers'.

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“Even when he was cold the first two games, you knew he was going to turn it around,” Anunoby said. “Just because we see it every day, it was eventually going to change.”

It wasn't even two seasons into his time with the Knicks that Brunson had already covered the franchise's entire scoring record. He came within one point of Carmelo Anthony's single-game scoring record during his 61-point performance against the San Antonio Spurs earlier this season. He now outperforms the qualifying players.

His 47-point outburst bests the previous franchise record, a four-decade-old standard from Hall of Famer Bernard King, who dropped 46 twice in the same 1984 series.

That's not surprising, even considering how one of the league's toughest defenses swept a guy who may not even be too young to be 1A. The hallmark of Brunson this season has been how he responds to his struggles. Opponents can surprise him with an endless long defender or an aggressive strategy. But eventually — usually for one game, although it took two in this case — he would figure out the coverage and beat it.

On Sunday, he reminded the world of the trend he demonstrated time and time again during the regular season. And even when there seems to be no room, just like the great explorers before him, from Magellan to Polo to Neil Armstrong, he will find space.

(Photo: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

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