By: Kylan Watson
The Philadelphia 76ers had all the momentum as they kicked off game four of their first-round matchup against the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets were even more desperate to win this game than they were on Thursday as they tried to avoid the sweep. It was not to be today though as Tobias Harris led a second-half scoring run that pulled Philly over the finish line, as they beat the Nets 96-88. The victory was their first sweep in the playoffs since 1991.
The Sixers did not have Joel Embiid tonight as he missed this game with a sprained knee. Without Embiid the paint was wide open for the Nets and Nic Claxton took full advantage of the Sixers not having a big man who could stop him. He scored 19-points and imposed his will early in this game and Philly had no answers for him. He got the Sixers defenders in early foul trouble and when they would double team him, he found the open man. His play helped the Nets get an 11-point lead by half-time and they were threatening to run the Sixers back to Philly. The Sixers trusted Paul Reed to make the right plays and he was able to slow Claxton down in the second half and no one else answered the challenge this afternoon to extend this series for Brooklyn.
Without Embiid there were more shot opportunities and Tobias Harris was not shy in this contest. The Sixers offensive plan seemed to be let’s feed him early and often. He rewarded their faith in him as he scored 25-points, grabbed 12-rebounds, and hit two/four three-pointers in the contest. Brooklyn had nobody available who could check him in this game. He took full advantage of his length and rose up over the smaller defenders and if they stopped him from getting a shot up, he attacked the basket. An aggressive Tobias Harris is great for the Sixers, he seems to play better when they find a way to keep him involved on the offensive side. Now that’s easier when Joel Embiid is not on the floor, but if the Sixers want to go far in these playoffs, they will have to keep him involved on the offensive side. He led a 21-to-four scoring run in the second half that put the Sixers back in front after being dominated throughout this game. Without Embiid he took on the scoring load and dragged the Sixers to the second-round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs. He is going to need to continue his aggressive play to give the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks something to think about when they are game planning for the Sixers.
This series really showed the depth that the Sixers invested in for this season and beyond. As they potentially get a week off to rest and prepare for the Boston Celtics or Atlanta Hawks, they will need to continue to trust their schemes on both sides of the ball if they want to continue their aggressive play. The Celtics will more than likely be their next opponents and they will need to stay attached to their man and limit the Celtics to one possession on the offensive side. They will also need to continue to use ball movement to find high-percentage shots and maximize their offensive possessions. When the Sixers offense is at its best the ball is moving, and everyone eats on offense. Philly will need to implement these things if they want to make it to their first conference finals since 2001.