Brooklyn Nets: Three Takeaways From Loss to Philadelphia 76ers (4/14/2021)

The Brooklyn Nets entered Wednesday night’s game in a battle for the first overall seed in the East with their opponent, the Philadelphia 76ers. Unfortunately, the Nets were without Kevin Durant due to rest and James Harden due to his hamstring injury. The star pair weren’t alone on the list of absences, as the Nets once again had to deal with a depleted roster.

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Despite the injury issues, the Nets managed to keep this game close all night long. Kyrie Irving was spectacular through three quarters, and the Nets bench went on a really impressive run late in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, however, the 76ers handed the Nets a 123-117 loss.

This game was heavily impacted by the Nets’ injury report, but there are still some positives to take away from this one.

Kyrie shines in return

The Nets star returned Wednesday after missing the previous two contests for personal reasons. He was stellar from the opening tip, finishing with 37 points on 13-22 shooting; he also went 10-10 from the free throw line and dished out eight assists.

Irving got to those numbers by relentlessly attacking the paint and converting spectacular finishes. Even double and triple teams weren’t enough to stop him:

Irving only made one of three tries from beyond the arc, yet somehow still managed to be absurdly efficient on offense. He tried to go to the rim on nearly every play, and dished out to open players (including a few excellent alley-oop passes) when he couldn’t get all the way there himself.

It isn’t exactly out of the ordinary for Kyrie to put together this kind of performance, but his play in the first three quarters was pretty special, even by his standards.

DeAndre does his part

The additions of Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge to the Brooklyn Nets, along with the continued emergence of Nic Claxton, led to five straight DNPs for DeAndre Jordan. He had been squeezed out of the rotation after starting for most of the year; however, Aldridge’s illness led to DJ re-entering the starting lineup in the last two games.

Jordan will still have a role in certain matchups in the playoffs, and he showed why in Wednesday’s first quarter. He grabbed 11 rebounds in that frame alone and scored six points on a tip-in and two alley-oop dunks. More importantly, he held Joel Embiid to 10 points on 3-9 shooting, frustrating Embiid whenever he stepped inside the 3-point line.

The rest of the game didn’t go as well for Jordan on either end; however, he did still finish with 12 points, 14 rebounds, and five assists and was Brooklyn’s best option to deal with Embiid all night long. Jordan will probably return to the deep bench once the Nets have some semblance of health on their side, but a few 10-minute stretches like DJ’s first quarter could make a world of difference in the postseason.

Alize Johnson and the fourth-quarter comeback attempt

The Nets had mounted a number of comebacks throughout the previous quarters to keep things close, but this one looked to be out of reach. With 8:40 left in the game and Philadelphia up 109-90, Irving checked out for the last time. The 76ers’ Furkan Korkmaz hit a three shortly after that to push the lead to 22 points, and it seemed as if garbage time was about to begin.

Apparently not, though. Brooklyn went on a 21-2 run over the next six minutes to cut the Philadelphia lead to three in a truly impressive effort. Alize Johnson exemplified that fourth-quarter effort; he scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds in the fourth quarter, including three offensive rebounds with two putbacks. He was a huge part of why the game was close late, even though he had a critical turnover in the final minute. Still, this game was a strong showing from Johnson and the Nets bench.

On a night when the Nets would have had any excuse for letting this game get away from them, they kept it close against an opponent who will have quite a bit to fear if they have to face a healthy Brooklyn team in the playoffs.