May 12, 2021

Brooklyn Nets had No Answer for Philadelphia 76ers

D'Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets point guard shooting ball over JJ Redick on left and Joel Embiid on right. D'Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets point guard shooting ball over JJ Redick on left and Joel Embiid on right. Photo Credit: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE

Nets D’Angelo Russell leads all scorers with 26 points, but couldn’t pull his team anywhere near a W against Philadelphia

Sunday night was a sad day for Brooklyn Nets fans at the Barclays Center. The Nets were up against the Philadelphia 76ers and it was a far cry from when the Nets defeated the Sixers 116-108 on January 31, 2018. Fast forward six weeks and one can see that this Philadelphia 76ers team is clearly on a mission, and the Brooklyn Nets were just collateral damage as they fell to the Sixers 120-97.

Currently, Philadelphia is in the sixth seed in the NBA Eastern Conference and it could move up, as positions three through eight are so close in the standings that positioning could change on any given day. Barring injury, the way the 76ers played on Sunday, it could move up a notch or two. Who would have thought at the beginning of this season, that the Philadelphia 76ers would be 1.5 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. I am concerned that the Cavaliers may not rep the Eastern Conference this season, but that’s a story for another day. Clearly, this Philly team bought into the philosophy of trusting the process. And, with 8 of the 11 Philadelphia 76ers team members scoring in double digits against the Nets, this team is making a statement. On Sunday, the 76ers said, “we belong in the conversation of top NBA teams.”

So, considering that the Nets beat the 76ers just six weeks ago and on Sunday, even though the Nets are healthy, they received a shellacking; are the Sixers really just that good?

“Yeah, they’re a great team,” Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell stated. “They’ve got a lot of great players over there. They’re well-coached, but I feel like we could have given ourselves a better chance by being better prepared coming into the game from the players’ perspective, the players’ standpoint, so we’ve just got to lock in as a group and do that for these last few games.”

“I mean they came out, just from the jump, ready to play,” Russell continued. “You’ve got to give them credit. We didn’t (come out and play). For 48 minutes they just kept making that happen, being aggressive. Aggressive won.”

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, and Dario Saric, who were among the starting five, were the top three leading scorers for Philadelphia. Embiid scored 21 points, eight rebounds, and three assists; Covington had 19 points, five rebounds, and four assists; while Saric tallied 18 points, six rebounds, and three assists. JJ Redick and Ben Simmons also started and contributed in their own way; Redick added 12 points and Simmons chipped in 11 points, six rebounds, and six assists.

It should be noted that three of the 76ers’ bench players scored in double-digits. Marco Belinelli totaled 13 points, Ersan Ilyasova put up 11 points and grabbed 13 rebounds; while T.J. McConnell chipped in 10 points, four rebounds, six assists, and four steals.

On the other hand, comparatively speaking, other than D’Angelo Russell, the Nets played like they were captured by witchcraft or something similar. Russell led all scorers with 26 points, six assists, and three rebounds. Spencer Dinwiddie, a winner of the NBA All-Star Taco Bell Challenge, scored 13 points, six assists, and three rebounds. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert did not start on Sunday, and as part of the Nets second unit, Hollis-Jefferson scored 12 points and six rebounds, while LeVert tallied 10 points and five assists.

Anyone can have a so-so day and not perform as expected, and this night was Joe Harris’ turn. The Nets’ sharp-three-point shooter only finished with five points on 1-for-5 shooting.

Although the Brooklyn Nets started off slowly, by the end of the first half, the Nets were only down by 10 points (70-60). So, how did the Nets fall into this position?

“We’ve just got to stop people,” Dinwiddie responded. “And some of that was them (Sixers) hitting tough shots, so you have to give them credit on some of them. But we also had mental errors where we gave up 10, 12 points in the game. Can’t do that, obviously changes the whole flow of the game. Just a completely different psychology to the game.”

Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson echoed his players.

“They dominated us in every fashion,” Atkinson said responding to a reporter’s question. “I don’t think there is an aspect of the game tonight where they didn’t dominate and I just have to give them a lot of credit. I thought they were the more aggressive team. They really, really got after us defensively and then offensively, we couldn’t stop them, obviously. So, these are the tough ones for a coach because you’re trying to get something positive out of it and for some reason, and that’s on me, we didn’t have it tonight. We just didn’t have it and I think they dominated us at every position. At the coach position also. I just think it was a great job by the Sixers. They played a great game.”

“At the coach position also.” I am not surprised that Atkinson admitted that 76ers dominated the Nets’ coaching staff as well because sometimes Atkinson is just too forthcoming. However, during his pregame press conference, Atkinson alluded to trouble ahead when he said that this Philadelphia team is a different team from the team the Nets played in January.

AUDIO: Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson’s Philadelphia 76ers’ pregame press conference

Comparatively speaking, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown, during his pregame press conference was by no means “smash mouth” in his expectations for his team’s outcome. Nevertheless, Brown clearly was expecting his team to get a “W”.

VIDEO: Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown gives media insight into his decision-making prior to facing off with the Brooklyn Nets

Postgame, Brown gave his assessment of the Sixers performance against the Nets.

“We came out at halftime at the start of the third period and were just sort of trading baskets,” Brown stated. “We tried to call timeout and regroup our guys. This team (Brooklyn) is a very dangerous team and I thought we responded. I thought from that point on we played defense to hold that team to 37 second-half point, 14 in the fourth period. Brooklyn is hard to guard, they are really hard to guard. I think that’s what excites me the most was our second half defense.”

“We’re just trying to improve on the things that will matter if we’re fortunate enough to play in the postseason,” Brown continued. “Turnovers are always on our mind. We played with the fourth fastest pace. We have a young rookie point guard.”

Perhaps because the Philadelphia 76ers are bigger and more talented than the Brooklyn Nets, they were destined to beat the Nets on Sunday. However, I contend that if your mind is focused on your strengths and positive outcomes, you just might win or, if not, the blow may be a little softer.

Comment below and let me know your thoughts.

TIP INS:

Next up for the Brooklyn Nets (21-46) are the Toronto Raptors (49-17) on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Yeah, I know, it’s probably going to be brutal.

For Philadelphia, check out the 76ers (36-29) as they battle it out with the Indiana Pacers (39-28).

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