PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 15: Spencer Dinwiddie #8 of the Brooklyn Nets handles the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers during Game Two of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on April 15, 2019 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
On Monday, the Brooklyn Nets carried a 1-0 series lead in the Wells Fargo Arena, but by the end of the night, the first round series between the Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers was knotted up at 1-1 as the Nets fell 145-123 in a game that was both closer and less close than the final score implied, depending on what quarters you were watching. Let’s break down the good, the bad, and what Monday night means for the series as we head back to Brooklyn for Game 3.
Game 2: The Good
Even in a game that was this lopsided, there were some encouraging signs for the Nets. It was, after all, a one-point game at the half. What were some positives?
Jarrett Allen was better
Allen’s Game 1 was a disaster as he picked up two fouls in the first minute, showed no ability to stop Joel Embiid, and ended up playing just 10 minutes. His Game 2 wasn’t necessarily that much better, but Allen was able to stay on the floor, and he flashed some ability to stop Joel Embiid late in the game, though the score was essentially out of reach by the time he figured it out.
RHJ’s minutes at the five
At some point in the third quarter, with the game ballooning out of control, the Nets finally put Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the game and it went…okay! In his first career playoff appearance, Hollis-Jefferson scored 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting and showed that maybe going big against the Sixers bigs wasn’t always the right idea. It wasn’t really a new lesson — we learned it on Saturday when Jared Dudley spent time at the five — but there were questions about how lineups with RHJ at the five would work since he doesn’t bring shooting to stretch the court and serve as a complete change of pace like Dudley. But Hollis-Jefferson is full of energy and gives the team a different look, and that had its good moments on Monday, even if it wasn’t quite perfect.
This Rodions Kurucs play
I mean, this was a very fun play by Rodi:
In fact, this brings up another positive.
12 of Brooklyn’s 32 rebounds were offensive, and four of those belonged to Kurucs. The Nets did a good job getting after the offensive glass, and while it didn’t really mean much on the scoreboard in this one, generate extra possessions is how you win tough games.
It’s still a 1-1 series
The biggest positive? The Nets head back to Brooklyn with the series tied at 1-1. Brooklyn wasn’t supposed to be here when the season started, and after the Caris LeVert injury, many thought this team would be closer to the Zion Williamson sweepstakes than the playoffs. But here they are, tied 1-1 with one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams with two home games coming up.
Game 2: The Bad
The third quarter
The Philadelphia 76ers were notable this season for having terrible third quarters and blowing leads, but on Monday night it was Brooklyn that found themselves in major trouble. Philadelphia scored 51 points in the period, with three players — Tobias H
arris, Joel Embiid, and Mike Scott — finishing the quarter with double-digit points. Overall, Philadelphia hit 72 percent of their shots in the quarter, while Brooklyn made just 38.1 percent of theirs, missing all six of their three-pointers and turning the ball over four times.
Ben Simmons getting into the paint
Let’s play a game. I’ll show you some videos and you tell me what they all have common:
If you guessed the Nets defense just lets Ben Simmons drive right into the paint and get an easy layup with seemingly zero resistance, you’d be correct! Simmons was a non-factor in Game 1, but he dropped a triple-double in this one, in large part because the Nets defense just had no answer for him.
Boban Marjanovic became unguardable
No Sixers player was more frustrating than Boban Marjanovic, though. You know Joel Embiid is unguardable and will do whatever he wants to the Nets defense, but with Embiid limited by a knee injury, the Nets likely went into the game expecting that they could take advantage of the moments when Embiid went to the bench.
Instead, those minutes were occupied by all of the Nets fandom screaming STOP BOBAN at the top of their lungs. Marjanovic scored a playoff career-high 16 points on 8-for-14 shooting while also adding eight rebounds. Sure, Boban is a defensive liability, but that doesn’t really matter when he’s this efficient on the offensive end.
Ed Davis played just six minutes
Ed Davis entered Monday’s game with an ankle injury, but he was suited up and ready to go. But Davis picked up some quick fouls, the game got out of hand, and he didn’t see the floor again. Hopefully Davis is healthy and ready to go on Thursday, because we saw in Game 1 that Davis offers the Nets a decent option for slowing down the Sixers’ interior attack.
Harris scored just four points on 1-for-4 shooting. He missed both of his threes. This team can’t win if Harris isn’t able to score.
Nets/Sixers Game 3: Looking Ahead
So, it’s a tied series. What can we expect on Thursday?
D’Angelo Russell has gotten off to slow starts in both games so far, but you’d think playing at home will help him shake off some of that early-game rust. The Sixers have shown themselves vulnerable to quick guards this season and Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris in particular have struggled in pick-and-roll defense, so that Jarrett Allen/D’Angelo Russell pick-and-roll — the second most used play in the NBA this season — should be able to get going.
Jared Dudley’s availability will be a huge factor on Thursday as well. Nate Wolf wrote after Game 1 about Dudley’s impact on the team, and he noted that in that game, the Nets had a 91.8 defensive rating with Dudley on the floor. He’s able to help Brooklyn be more switchy defensively, which is useful against this Sixers team.
Still, the Sixers will be tough to beat and beating them really starts with beating Joel Embiid. Is Dudley at the five enough for that? Should Ed Davis play more? How do you stop this team inside?
I’m not sure how to answer those questions, and that’s the big danger with this series. If Embiid is even closer to 100 percent than he was in Game 2, he’ll be a major issue for this Nets team. Brooklyn will need their three playmakers — Russell, Dinwiddie, and LeVert — to get to the basket and hit their threes if they want to negate some of Embiid’s impact.