Brooklyn Nets vs Philadelphia 76ers
Friday, October 22, 2021 – 07:30 PM EDT at Wells Fargo Center
The 76ers have dominated the NBA's news cycle for all the wrong reasons this offseason. Ben Simmons is under a max contract for the Philadelphia 76ers for the next 4 years. He no longer wants to play for a team whose superstar and coach publicly blamed him for the loss following their second-round playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks.
Simmons is under the influence of agent Rich Paul, who in my opinion, is not giving him the best advice. Regardless of what we think of how the situation is being handled, we cap this game knowing there is turmoil with the Sixers, and Simmons’ status for each game will be in jeopardy. Simmons was suspended for game one, and it is not confirmed whether or not he will play in this game tonight.
So enough talk about the Sixers who aren't there, let's talk about the Sixers who are on this roster. Tyrese Maxey is taking over the starting point guard role. Maxey is quick off the dribble and a pure scorer. Maxey is still learning how to control the pace of the NBA game, but with experience, it seems like he will be a fine floor general.
Joel Embiid is the unquestioned leader of the team. The friction between him and Simmons is the root of this controversy. Embiid is a true MVP candidate. If he avoids injury, he will be in the running for the award again this season. Embiid is the only player in the NBA to average more than 1 point per possession in the post, making his style of game a throwback to the old way the basketball was played. One of Embiid's main skills will be relevant in any era of basketball, and that is rim protection.
Embiid is a fierce shot blocker that anchors the top-five Philadelphia defense. With Simmons out, Tobias Harris will assume more of the scoring role, and that is a role he is well adapted to fit. Harris is a great pick-and-roll player. He can drive to the rim and shoot 3-pointers at an accurate percentage. The Sixers can absorb the loss of Simmons on the offensive end, it is on the defensive end where they really miss their All-Star.
Matisse Thybulle will assume the role of the defensive stopper with Simmons out. Thybulle is a fine defender, and in his third year, he is expected to make the leap into elite defensive ability. If Thybulle can be consistent on the offensive end in his ability to knock down the three-point shot, he will be an emerging star in the NBA.
The Nets failed to get revenge against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year, falling 127- 104 to the defending Champion Milwaukee Bucks. The Nets once again struggled with the Bucks' size. The Bucks beat them in the rebounding category, and second-chance opportunities propelled them to an easy victory. The Sixers do not have multiple big bodies to throw at the boards, however. This should come as a relief to the Nets, who are still working on their big man rotation.
The Nets feature Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Nicolas Claxton in the frontcourt. Griffin & Aldridge are former All-Stars, but time has robbed them of the athletic abilities that they once possessed. Both now rely on their veteran guile and fundamental acumen to be effective players. Against an athletic frontcourt such as Milwaukee, they can struggle, but against slower players or smaller teams, they should flourish. All three will have their hands full trying to contain Joel Embiid however.
Even if the Nets’ mismatched frontcourt cannot contain Embiid, there is still a path to victory for them. It is simply by Kevin Durant outscoring Joel Embiid. Durant is the best scorer in the league in my mind, and many NBA observers agree. Rather than try and stop Embiid, Durant will most likely be aggressive on the offensive and force Embiid to keep pace with his prolific shot-making and creative ability to get great open looks.
James Harden struggled in the opener but he is still a talented player. Harden has the ability to have an explosive scoring night at any time. Harden is adept at beating his man off the dribble and his use of the step-back 3 has changed the way that NBA coaches design their offense.
Harden's ability to manipulate defenders into fouling, or to bait them into giving him space to hit the three, makes him a potent offensive threat even as his quickness declines. While the Nets will have problems stopping Embiid, the Sixers will also have their own problems with Harden and Durant.
Patty Mills was fantastic in the opener going 7-7 from 3 with 21 points. While we cannot always expect this type of scoring output from Mills, it is no question that he is a strong addition to the Nets, with his shooting ability and veteran acumen leading the team.
Joe Embiid versus the Nets frontcourt. Embiid is going to have to have a big offensive night for the Sixers to keep pace with the Nets. Embiid has a fantastic matchup here though. None of the Nets players seem to have the physical tools to keep up with a man of his skill and physical dominance. There will be a lot of pressure on Embiid to come through, however, as Harden and Durant will be putting up points on the other end with ease.
Embiid will need to completely dominate the game from the offensive end. He will need to use his ability to score but he also needs to draw double-teams and open up his teammates for three-point shots. Philadelphia is a great defensive team but they're going to need Embiid to dominate in case this turns into a shootout.
The Nets are coming off a tough loss. The Nets will be eager to turn their momentum around to avoid falling into a hole against the other contenders to start the season. Philadelphia got a feel-good win against a depleted New Orleans Pelicans roster.
The Nets losing in the fashion in which they did gives us value here. Do not be fooled by what you saw in the opening games, the Nets are the better team. The Nets will be playing at a hundred percent effort in order to keep from falling behind early in the race for home court in the Eastern Conference.
Harden and Durant will be too much for Embiid to keep up with for the full 48 minutes. Embiid has consistently shown conditioning issues, which may limit his effectiveness in the fourth quarter. The firepower of the Nets will be too much. Take the Nets for your NBA pick.
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