Philadelphia used their 1 game mulligan on Saturday in the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets. There are a bevy of reasons for why the 76ers lost so pathetically to a side that has constantly exceeded expectations this season. One thing is for certain in tonight’s Game 2 at the Wells Fargo Center: the Philadelphia 76ers cannot afford to drop another game. It is not a grand or daring proclamation, but it is fact, and considering that Philly has already lost home court advantage, losing tonight could spell the end of the postseason for the NBA Finals hopefuls.
Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons all have to play to better. Embiid put up a respectable stat line on Saturday, but he was a far cry from being unstoppable. It was only his first game back from injury so there was bound to be some rust in his game, but he still managed 22 points and 15 rebounds. Yet, he only shot 5-of-15 and missed all his attempts from the three point line. He stated that his knee was still bothering him throughout the game, and there are suggestions that Embiid should simply sit out until he is healthy.
The team was forced to rely on Jimmy Butler who racked up an impressive 36 points and 9 rebounds, which was more than Simmons, Harris and Redick combined. Simmons’s ability to create scoring opportunities for his teammates cannot be undervalued, even though he only mustered three assists on the night. Simmons was a victim of the ire from an utterly befuddled Sixers crowd as he was booed after a missed free throw attempt. He is the undisputed floor general for the 76ers and it is his job to lead the squad through tough bouts on the court.
Tobias Harris, on the other hand, had very little excuse for his disappointing night. He was brought into Philly for his propensity to create his own shot, but instead he went 2-for-7 from the field. The Brooklyn Nets player’s were able to prevent his effectiveness and forced him to operate as a passer. JJ Redick also shot 2-for-7, but Redick’s propensity to score is reliant on his off-the-ball movement. The Nets were cognizant of this fact and continually prevented him from finding quality chances.
Brett Brown is on the hot seat with his head coach position in Philadelphia. He made some questionable decisions during the 2018 NBA Playoffs. This season General Manager, Elton Brand, went all in with the moves to bring in Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. Brett Brown has no choice but to get the 76ers team to at least the Eastern Conference Finals.
We should take nothing away from the job that Kenny Atkinson has done this season as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. Since taking on the job, he has consistently improved the team’s performance year over year. The emergence of D’Angelo Russell as the star of the team is a story in and of itself. Brooklyn deserved the win on Saturday and now have the advantage on their side for the remainder of the series.
There is still a long way to go before the Sixers are eliminated, but the team is now on the back foot. Brown will be judged on his ability to make changes in the approach to Game 2, in order to counter the Nets’ strategy of shutting down Simmons, Harris and Redick. Brett Brown must exhibit his coaching acumen in what must be his biggest test as Philadelphia’s head coach.
Photo Credit-Unsplash: Tommy Bebo