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April 17, 2023 Category: Sports Posted by:

The Philadelphia 76ers took Game 1 of their Eastern Conference playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets by playing above the level of their competition.

By Chris Murray
For the Philadelphia Sunday SUN

There was nothing spectacular about the Philadelphia 76ers 121-101 win over the Brooklyn Nets win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round playoff series.

The Nets hung around long enough to be somewhat competitive early, but the 76ers trio of James Harden, MVP-candidate Joel Embiid, and Tobias Harris proved to be too much for Brooklyn as the Sixers took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The two teams will hook up for Game 2 of this series tonight at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia.

It was Harden who set the tone in Game 1 by his ability to pass the ball around to his teammates while getting his own shot in the process. He scored 23 points while dishing out 13 assists. His play also enabled Embiid to score a team-high 26 points and helped Harris add 21 points to the 76ers’ offensive attack.

“When Tobias is playing well, when George (Niang) has points, it usually means the ball is moving,” said Sixers head coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers. “It showed that we were trusting the pass. …We gotta keep doing that. That’s our growth area. We just gotta keep doing it.”

It also helped that Harden was equally as aggressive as a scorer, especially from behind the three-point line. He was 7-of-13 for the game, and at one point, late in the second quarter, he hit four straight three-point buckets. He said it was a byproduct of Brooklyn trying to double-team Embiid.

“It was something that they were giving us,” Harden said. “They doubled (Embiid) the whole game basically,” Harden said. “They tried their best to not let him get going, but he still had 20-something, and I think he did a good job of making those easy passes and we knocked shot done. …We’re making shots and we’re attacking the basket. We’re generating easy shots for us. That was the key for us tonight.”

Embiid said he invited the Nets to double-team him in the paint, so that he, along with Harden, get everyone else involved.

“Our game plan, especially for me, to just invite the double-team and make plays for my teammates,” Embiid said. “The same thing for James. Every time there was dribble penetration, he made the right play every single time.”

Even though the Nets shot 55% from the field, the Sixers forced 19 Net turnovers, they got to those loose balls, and they outrebounded the Nets. The 76ers also did a good job of slowing down former Villanova star Mikal Bridges, who scored 23 points in the first and was held to just seven points in the second half.

“Bridges was just destroying us in the first half,” Harris said. “The first half for him was like being on the beach. He kept curling in the paint and getting wide-open shots. In the second half, we doubled team him a lot more, we got the ball out his hands and I thought that was effective.”

The Sixers also did something they hadn’t done too often during the regular season. They outrebounded their opponents on the offensive boards. The 76ers pulled down 14 offensive rebounds and generated 21-second chance points. P.J. Tucker pulled down five of those offensive rebounds.

“Playoff basketball is about every possession,” Harris said. “P.J. gave us more possessions out there on the floor by crashing the glass and with his physical presence defensively as well. Five steals, five offensive rebounds. That’s huge for us and added possessions. They add up at the end of the game. That was a huge reason we got extra looks and good looks as well.”

The Sixers bench didn’t disappoint in this game either. Backup center Paul Reed scored 11 points and pulled down four rebounds. Niang added eight points. Jalen McDaniel added scored points and four rebounds.

You can catch tonight’s game on NBC Sports Philadelphia at 7:30 p.m.

Graphic: AP Photo

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