By: Kylan Watson
As the first-round playoff matchup between the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets shifted to Brooklyn for game three. Philly faced not only an outmatched team but an increasingly desperate one as well. At times the Nets physicality looked like it was getting to the Sixers throughout this game and Tyrese Maxey pulled them over the finish line, as they beat Brooklyn 102-97 to take the three-to-nothing lead in this series.
The Sixers once again did not start this game off well, they missed a few shots early on and the Nets took full advantage as they were able to get out to an early lead. The Nets decided that their best strategy was to use a little physicality to rough up this game and it got to Joel Embiid early on. He struggled and probably should have been ejected for kicking Nic Claxton in the family jewels after getting the Ty Lue treatment and being stepped over. This was the third straight game where Embiid struggled throughout this game. However, he still made the right plays throughout this game and his playmaking ability has been a highlight in this series. If he can continue to make the right plays despite being clearly injured the Sixers can go far in the postseason. Tyrese Maxey (25-points, and hit five/eight three-pointers), James Harden (21-points, and hit three/seven three-pointers tonight), and Tobias Harris (15-points) picked their big-man and MVP candidate up tonight. The trio combined for 61 of the Sixers’ 102-points in the contest. Without them the Sixers probably lose this game. Each player got whatever they wanted from the field, specifically Maxey who scored Philly’s final 10-points to pull them over the finish line tonight. He hit the game-winning three-pointer to keep a feisty Brooklyn squad down. These last two games Maxey has really shown out and with a potential matchup against the Boston Celtics on the horizon. Philly will need all the scoring they can get from him against a team he struggled against in the regular season. Games like tonight really show off the Sixers depth but this potential second-round matchup with the Celtics will probably determine who represents the Eastern Conference in the finals because the winner of that matchup will face whoever survives between the hobbled Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, and Cleveland Cavaliers in the Conference Finals.
The Nets were able to weather the offensive explosion from the Sixers trio and were able to battle back in the third quarter. They forced Philly into some ill-advised turnovers and that helped them retake the lead. The duo of Mikal Bridges (26-points) and Spencer Dinwiddie (20-points) led them tonight, they combined for 46 of Brooklyn’s 97-points. Both players got whatever they wanted from the field and the Sixers could not do much to stop them tonight. They led a 35-point third quarter outburst that it took Philly until the middle of the fourth quarter to overcome. The Nets had their best stuff going in tonight’s game and the Sixers were able to still win an ugly game that Brooklyn made that way. The Nets had one of the better games tonight and it still wasn’t enough, but they are a team that is on the rise. They just need some more veterans on this team to calm their young talent down. They made some rookie mistakes that cost them this game. They will learn from this experience and will be a dangerous team in the loaded Eastern Conference.
With Game Four coming up on Saturday afternoon the Sixers will need to learn to handle the Nets physicality their only other strategy is to get Joel Embiid or James Harden kicked out of this game. They were able to get Harden ejected tonight and still could not win this game. Philly will also need to keep their ball moving on the offensive side. When they are at their best on offense the ball is moving, and they are able to find the open man for a high-percentage shot. Tonight, was one of the more balanced nights in this series for the Sixers and they can go deep in these playoffs when they make sure everybody eats on the offensive side. They will need to implement these things if they want to sweep the Nets on Saturday afternoon.