NEW YORK -- With 28.2 seconds left in Game 5 of their first-round series against the New York Knicks on Tuesday, the Philadelphia 76ers trailed by six points. It was almost the exact inverse of the situation they were in the last time they played at Madison Square Garden -- in Game 2, they had a five-point lead down the stretch before giving up a pair of 3s in the final 27 seconds. And this time, down 3-1 in the series, their season was on the line.

The Sixers had called timeout, and Tyrese Maxey was "really, really upset with myself," Maxey said. He'd missed a free throw with 1:32 left, and he'd turned the ball over on the possession that followed. One of his teammates had to calm him down.

"Buddy Hield just kind of grabbed me," Maxey said, "and said, 'Listen, dude, you know what you can do. Go out there and just make up for it.'"

Maxey obliged. Out of the timeout, Maxey ran a high pick-and-roll with Joel Embiid, got Knicks center Mitchell Robinson in the air with a pump fake, then drew a foul and made a leaning 3-pointer. 

Down three after Josh Hart split a pair of free throws, Maxey and Embiid ran another high pick-and-roll. Embiid set the screen near halfcourt, Maxey pulled up from the logo and cashed it. Tie game.

"I'm glad we didn't mess around and try to keep working for something or whatever," Philadelphia coach Nick Nurse said. "We had a little play call that has a counter to it, and one of the options is him just pulling up. Now I know that was a deep one, but he raised it up there and took his chance. 

"Going through my mind right there was just find a way to survive," Maxey said. "Season's on the line. I trust my work, I trust what I've done all my life. And just try to get to a spot and raise up and knock a shot down."

The Sixers found a way, first to extend the game and then to win it. In overtime, when they fell down by five points and "the crowd was into it, we didn't give up," forward Nicolas Batum said. "Stayed cool, relaxed, make some stops, make big plays." Maxey made a huge 3, assisted by Embiid, and then Embiid made three defensive plays in a row: A contest against Hart in transition, followed by a strip and a block against New York star Jalen Brunson on consecutive drives.

That Embiid, one of the league's best defenders, pulled all of that off is not particularly surprising. That he pulled it off then, however, was an absolute shock. Embiid had surgery on his meniscus in February and is "kind of playing on one leg," Philadelphia big man Paul Reed said. He is also dealing with Bell's palsy, and had migraines leading up to the game. 

For much of the night, Embiid struggled; in the fourth quarter, the Sixers subbed him out for a brief rest "to try to at least talk to him, give him a minute or two to settle down," Nurse said. Had Maxey not scored seven points in 17 seconds late in regulation, the enduring memories of Embiid's final game of the season would have been him repeatedly turning the ball over and getting beaten off the dribble, not a series of clutch stops in overtime. 

"He can do those things," Nurse said following the 112-106 win. "It just didn't seem like that was going to appear tonight. He obviously was not feeling great. It was a tough game for him, very difficult, but he found a way to do that stuff. He can move his feet, he can block shots, he can strip the ball, we've all seen him do that when he's super engaged and trying to get a stop. It was good that he finally came up and was able to dig deep, dig down and do that." 

Sandwiched between his two stops against Brunson, Embiid made a tough floater from about 15 feet, plus the foul.

"Joel Embiid is one of the most resilient dudes I know right now," Reed said. "He's going out there playing for his team, for Philly. And he's really putting it all on the line right now." 

For Embiid and the Sixers, it was an imperfect game, to put it kindly. But it was also a gritty one. "I don't think we played great," Nurse said. "I think that's all it was, was guts. We hung in there." Embiid said he was "terrible" and was "careless with the ball" at times, but had "good intentions to make the right play." He added that "there's no way I can be as bad as I was" going forward. 

"I think we still haven't played our best basketball," Embiid said. "Especially I don't think we've combined, all of us, to play our best basketball.

Embiid finished with 19 points on 7-for-19 shooting, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, one steal, four blocks and nine turnovers in 48 minutes. Maxey had 46 points on 17-for-30 shooting, including 7-for-12 from deep, five rebounds, nine assists and three turnovers in 52 minutes. Considering the stakes, it was "for sure" the best game of Maxey's career, Nurse said. 

Nurse credited Maxey for recognizing that "our No. 1 option was struggling" and saying, "All right, I gotta put this team on my back and go." The Sixers "just kept encouraging him to take his chances, take his shots and make plays," Nurse said,"and he certainly did it."

After the game, Kevin Johnson, Philadelphia's head athletic trainer, talked to Maxey about the similarities between his fourth-quarter magic and Reggie Miller's classic, eight-points-in-nine seconds heroics at MSG in 1995.

"I gotta go back and watch it a little bit more," the 23-year-old who saved the Sixers' season said. "That was a long time ago." 

In the same stairwell in which delirious fans had chanted "LET'S GO KNICKS" as they exited the arena eight days prior, there was stunned silence on Tuesday. Then one voice asked, rhetorically, the question that was on everybody's mind: "What the f--- just happened?"