A 39-point performance from Joel Embiid helped the Sixers to cruise past the Nets in a potential Eastern Conference Finals preview.
It may not have been the Eastern Conference Finals Preview that was expected, but the Sixers took on the Nets for the third time this season. Despite being without James Harden and Kevin Durant, the Brooklyn squad put on a fight and managed to climb out of a large lead the Sixers once held.
The Nets have yet to see what the team can fully do together as their three stars have all missed time this season. Kevin Durant has missed 32 games, Kyrie Irving has been away from the team for 16, and James Harden has not been with the Nets for 20 games so far this season.
The Sixers were ultimately able to come out on top and secured a victory by a score of 123-117. Joel Embiid showed his array of offensive skills and was ultimately able to lead the Sixers to a win over their Eastern Conference counterparts:
First Half Recap
The Sixers looked to be in attack mode from the tip as Ben Simmons made an effort to push the pace. The Sixers went on an 8-0 run early in the first to take a 15-6 lead. The Nets immediately answered with an 8-0 run of their own and kept it a game throughout the first. The quarter ended with the score being 32-29 in the Sixers’ favor.
Despite facing the intimidating matchups of Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle, Kyrie Irving was impressive early on. He ended the first quarter with ten points and four assists, hitting shots with the smallest sliver of space and twisting and impossibly to create that space. Irving ended the half with 23 points and 7 assists on 8 of 11 shooting. He led all scorers at halftime and proved he is still well capable of being the alpha-dog of an offense.
The Sixers looked toward Joel Embiid to match this production and were not disappointed. Even though he did not play particularly well, the MVP candidate finished the half with 21 points and 6 rebounds. The number may not indicate it, but DeAndre Jordan played some pretty impressive defense early in this matchup. Jordan entered the half with 8 points and 12 rebounds of his own as well.
The lead got as large as 12 in the first half, and even a frustrating finish to the half allowed the Sixers to carry in a 65-58 lead. The Sixers shot 55.6% from the field from the first half and hit 7 of their 12 three-point attempts. They looked impressive as a whole and were given some quality minutes from the bench unit early in this one. The Sixers also led the Nets in points off turnovers 17-2 in the first half.
Second Half Recap
The Sixers continued their hot shooting into the second half and extended the lead to as large as 16 in the third quarter. Joel Embiid began to really find his stride and scored 16 points in the third quarter. He seemed to be able to do whatever he wanted out there.
Embiid had over 35 points and 10 rebounds through three quarters for the third time all season. All other players combined in the NBA only have one of these types of games this season. He asserted his dominance and broke out his air-humping celebration after a ridiculous and-one.
At times the game felt like a one-on-one matchup between Embiid and Kyrie Irving, with Joel ultimately having the upper hand. The Nets managed to just hang in there as the score stayed around a 10-point lead for the Sixers throughout the third. It proved to be a high-scoring matchup as the Sixers led 94-84 through three quarters.
The game began to extend to blowout territory as the Nets looked to be short on bodies to start the fourth. Their lack of star power was shown as the Sixers’ lead began to pile on. However, the game took a turn in the 4th quarter, and the Nets bench managed to spark a comeback.
The run brought it to as close as a 3-point game, and Doc Rivers was forced to bring the starters back in. The Nets unit was led by Landry Shamet and Nic Claxton as Kyrie Irving watched from the bench. The former Sixer, Landry Shamet, ended with 17 points on the game. Shamet is also one of the four players on the Nets roster who played under Doc Rivers with the Clippers.
Ultimately, the Sixers secured the victory led by some solid free-throw shooting to close the game out. The Sixers certainly took their foot off the gas and nearly paid the price for it. Some solid free-throw shooting to close the game ultimately secured the victory as the Sixers won by a score of 123-117.
The Nets are no joke, and this game obviously didn’t show how talented they are as a team. Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving are obviously intimidating names, but Joel Embiid is every bit the superstar as each of these. That must be the biggest takeaway for the Sixers as he dominated this game right from the jump. There is no one in the NBA that can match up with him one-on-one, and he put that on display tonight.
Embiid will always be the key to any title hopes the Sixers have. Even the knee-brace wasn’t able to slow him down tonight as he ended with 39 points and 13 rebounds despite only playing 33 minutes. This production in a short period of time is extremely impressive, and the 26 points from Tobias Harris was enough to carry the team home. While it was frightening to see the Nets sneak back into this matchup, it was good to see the Sixers get the win.
It is also extremely important to note that this was a key game in the Eastern Conference Standings. The Sixers are now a full game up on the Nets for first place in the East, which could have important implications for the playoffs.
If they are able to secure the first seed, the Sixers could avoid a matchup with the Bucks and possibly the Heat. Standings are certain to shake up, but this was a major statement win for the Sixers. That being said, it is still a frightening thought to see what the Brooklyn offense can be when Durant and Harden are able to fully return.