By: Kylan Watson
The Philadelphia 76ers put an emphasis on getting tougher in the offseason. That mantra was tested tonight as Ben Simmons and the Brooklyn Nets returned to Philadelphia. This was not the matchup that most people expected. Philly was significantly undermanned as they were missing a majority of their scoring with the trio of James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and Joel Embiid missing the game because of injury. Despite every excuse known to man the Sixers outmuscled Brooklyn and beat them 115 -106.
Brooklyn started the game off hot, they made their first few shots and were outmaneuvering the Sixers on both sides of the ball. Before they could even get settled into the game, they were down by eight points and Brooklyn was threatening to blow them out in Philly once again. Kevin Durant started the game hotter than a Philadelphia grill making a cheesesteak. He scored 14 of his 20-points on nine/15 shooting. Philly could not do much to stop him in the first half, but PJ Tucker found a way to make things more difficult for him in the second half. He played him more aggressively and forced him to take more difficult shots. Durant could not do it tonight and the Sixers were able to do just enough to stay ahead of Brooklyn. Tucker has been in the midst of a scoring slump, but this is the fourth straight game where his defensive toughness made it difficult on one of the league’s best scoring threats. He played Durant aggressively without fouling him and did not give him room to breathe. That allowed the rest of Philly’s defenders to key in on the Nets shooters and hold them to one opportunity on the offensive end instead of multiple. Tucker has been one of the key cogs in the top defensive unit in the NBA and he showed it tonight and without Joel Embiid for the next two games. It will take a team effort on both sides of the ball to keep Philly afloat during this tough stretch without Harden, Maxey, and Embiid.
Without their explosive trio there were more scoring opportunities available, and a returning Tobias Harris took full advantage. He scored 24-points and powered Philly to an unlikely victory. He reminded everybody that despite being the fourth option when the team is healthy, he has number one option scoring ability. Harris saved a couple of Philly’s offensive possessions in the second half by using his size advantage. He scored on a couple of back-breaking fade away jumpers to seal the game for the Sixers. His aggressiveness opened up three-point opportunities for the Sixers. They made 16/32 three-pointers, Philly had a better not from beyond arc than they did from the two-point line. If Philly can continue to outshoot teams from the three-point line, they can definitely survive until they get their trio back.
The Sixers will now travel to Charlotte tomorrow night to face the young Hornets squad that doesn’t have LaMelo Ball but is still very dangerous. Philly will need to make sure their defense travels to Charlotte with them. They will need to make it tough on the Hornets shooters and limit them to just one opportunity on the offensive end. Additionally, they will need to make sure that the keep the ball moving on offense to find a high percentage basket on the offensive end. If they want to get their 10th win of the season.