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18 Apr 2023

Playing with a Virtue

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April 18, 2023 Category: Sports Posted by:

The Philadelphia 76ers took a 2-0 series lead over the Brooklyn Nets by playing a patient game.

By Chris Murray
For the Philadelphia Sunday SUN

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid in action during Game 1 in the first round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets in Philadelphia. The Sixers won 95-84 Monday night over the Brooklyn Nets in Game 2. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

On a night when the Philadelphia 76ers committed 19 turnovers, trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half and Joel Embiid was held to under 20 points for the first three quarters, the team somehow managed to take a 2-0 lead over the Brooklyn Nets in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference.

The Sixers’ 96-84 win over the Nets at the Wells Fargo Center Monday was a testament to the way they moved the ball and the patience of Embiid, who still managed to score 20 points, seven assists and 19 rebounds, despite the Nets throwing everything but the kitchen sink at him.

“We got stops. Our defense in the second half was terrific and we moved the ball and we trusted offensively,” head coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers said. “I thought our execution was unbelievable. We got guys to the right space. Joel was patient. James was patient. We moved the ball and got every shot we wanted.”

But because Embiid faced a myriad of double-teams from the Nets, the night belonged to Tyrese Maxey, who scored a game-high 31 points, and Tobias Harris, who added 20 points including a huge steal and dunk that energized the Sixers early in the second half and sparked a 20-5 scoring spurt that put the 76ers on top for good after trailing by five at halftime.

“We put a guy under the basket, they’re going to trap. Let the ball find the open guy,” Rivers said. “In the second half, it was (Maxey) which we’re good with. Not only with his shot but his attacks. I thought (James Harden) advanced the basketball in the second half. We got (Maxey) down the floor in transition.”

Embiid, who also had three blocked shots, said he knew his teammates would start knocking down shots and eventually find him space to score in the second half.

“I trusted the guys and if we keep making the right plays, I knew that at some we’re going to knockdown shots,” Embiid said. “(Harris) was big, obviously (Maxey) was big. I thought (Harden) did a good job of managing.”

After Rivers called a time out early in the second half, the steal by Harris and the subsequent coast-to-coast trip that led to a thunderous dunk sent the Wells Fargo faithful into a frenzy. It also made the team sit up and take notice.

“I think it was two things. Defensively we were really able to lock in,” Harris said. “Our body language from [the] time out that Doc called really got us locked into the moment of the game. We really weren’t playing our best. … It was a time for us to realize that this is the playoffs. We need to be ready, and we needed to pick our energy up. We needed our body language to get this win.”

For the second straight game, Harris scored 20 points. With Embiid being surrounded from seemingly all sides by a Nets defense determined not to let him have his way in the paint, the Sixers needed all of Harris’s 20 points in this game.

“Yeah, [Harris] has been huge all year,” Maxey said. “We’ve talked about it all year. He’s a pro’s pro. His roles change game-by-game. He’s been able to stay steady. He’s played extremely well. We’ve asked him to guard guys that he hasn’t had to guard in the past. But he’s stepped up to the challenge and he’s done that. He’s been able to shoot the ball well and he’s been productive there.”

With a win against the Nets at the Barclay Center on Thursday night, the Sixers will move on to the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they will meet the winner of the Boston Celtics/Atlanta Hawks series. To see if that happens, you can catch the game on NBC Sports Philadelphia, TNT or if you’re a fan of color man Tom McDonald, 97.5 FM The Fanatic.

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