Sixers vs. Nets: Game 4 preview and betting info

Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden (1) reacts after a 3-point basket in the first half during Game 1 in the first round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets, Saturday, April 15, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

The Philadelphia 76ers could be the first team in this year’s playoffs to sweep their opponent. If the team can overcome the absence of Joel Embiid and shut down the Nets, Philly will advance to the conference semifinals for the fourth time in the last five postseason attempts. 

Sixers vs. Nets: Game 4 preview and betting info

Philadelphia 76ers’ Paul Reed (44) dunks the ball in the first half during Game 2 in the first round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets, Monday, April 17, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Who: Philadelphia 76ers (2-0) @ Brooklyn Nets (0-2) 

When: Saturday, April 22 at 1:00 pm EST

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

How to watch: TNT, NBC Sports Philly, YES Network

Sixers vs. Nets Betting Odds

Brooklyn Nets’ Mikal Bridges, right, shoots over Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris in the first half during Game 1 in the first round of the NBA basketball playoffs, Saturday, April 15, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Spread: Sixers -2 | Nets +2

Moneyline: Sixers -135 | Nets +115

Total: Over/Under 208.5 

Looking back at Game 3

Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey (0) celebrates after making a 3-point shot against the Brooklyn Nets during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Thursday, April 20, 2023, in New York. The 76ers won 102-97. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

In game three of the first round, the Nets continued to slow down Joel Embiid, limiting him to a scoring average of just 20 points per game for the series. Facing a possible 0-3 deficit, Jacque Vaughn kept blitzing Embiid every time he touched the ball. It was effective, but Doc Rivers was able to rely on other key players to step up offensively. 

At various stages of the game, player emotions and referee whistles started having a significant impact. Early in the game, Joel Embiid was given a flagrant 1 call because of Nic Claxton’s step-over taunt. Then, later in the game, James Harden was ejected for striking Royce O’Neale in the groin area on a drive. As egregious as it seemed, the Sixers kept playing and went to Tyrese Maxey for a scoring boost.

Although Maxey was targeted on defense early, the Sixers’ guard was able to catch a rhythm and make baskets to make up for James Harden’s ejection. After one half, he led the Sixers with 15 points and ended up with a team-high 25 points. Maxey scored from everywhere on the floor, causing the Barclays Center to groan with each scoring dagger.

As Embiid struggled, other Sixers who elevated their game like Maxey were Tobias Harris, De’Anthony Melton, and P.J. Tucker. Each contributed with their scoring, defense, and rebounding. Tucker, in particular, secured eight rebounds and a block to have an impact on the outcome that reflects the expectations of when he was signed last summer. 

In dramatic fashion, Philly fought back to regain the lead late in the final quarter, where Embiid had his best moment in the game. With a clear layup lane, Spencer Dinwiddie was rejected by Joel Embiid at the last second. 

Tyrese Maxey provided his own spectacular highlight, pulling up from deep and draining a 3-pointer to give the 76ers the lead. The Nets turned the ball over on the final possession, and Sixers fans exhaled at the same time that Nets fans began exiting the arena. Maxey is has hit shots from beyond the arc all series long, making 53.8 percent of his 3-pointers versus the Nets.

What to expect for Game 4

Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden looks to pass the ball during the first half of Game 3 of the team’s NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, April 20, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

First, the good news. After reviewing the altercations Joel Embiid and James Harden were involved with in Game 3, the NBA has officially announced that they will not be taking any further action against the Sixers’ superstar tandem.

Now, the bad news. According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Joel Embiid will miss today’s game after suffering a sprain in his right knee. Without their two-way superstar, the Sixers find themselves facing a much tougher task, but not an impossible one.

Despite Mikal Bridges averaging 25.7 points a game in the playoffs so far, the 76ers have held Brooklyn below 100 points in two of the three games. According to Stathead, the Sixers are 8-2 when holding playoff opponents under 100 points while shooting less than 50 percent. It would be surprising to see Brooklyn put up a bigger score with Philly so locked in on defense, even without Joel Embiid.

Harden will keep spreading the ball around, as he has 24 assists in three games versus Brooklyn. Expect him to also launch 3-pointers to stretch the floor. He has made 42.9 percent of his 3-pointers (12-28).

Harris and Maxey have taken advantage of Brooklyn’s concerted effort to thwart Embiid but face a tougher challenge without their superstar garnering the attention he has been. As defenders have rotated after Embiid passes out of double-teams, Harris is getting wide-open 3-pointers, and Maxey is attacking late rotations to take shots in the paint. Without Embiid, it’s up to the rest of the team to create those opportunities themselves.

If Philly’s bench steps up in this fourth game, it could be just enough to send Brooklyn fishing and the Sixers back home for some time off before starting the next series. That time off could prove crucial between Joel Embiid’s continued recovery and the Boston Celtics’ series against the Atlanta Hawks, which may be more drawn out than initially expected.

Prediction: Sixers 112 | Brooklyn 99