BROOKLYN – The Nets (21-46) had no answer for the Sixers’ offense and length as they suffered a humbling 120-97 defeat at Barclays Center.
Brooklyn played its first game at home in almost two weeks and hoped to build momentum after an impressive win in Charlotte, but Philadelphia immediately pounced on the home team. The visitors shot 16-for-20 in the first quarter and while Brooklyn valiantly tried to mount another comeback in the second and third quarters, the Sixers would respond with a dominant 24-14 fourth quarter.
D’Angelo Russell led all scorers with 26 points while Joel Embiid powered Philadelphia with 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Russell bemoaned the Nets’ start against the Sixers after the game.
“I just feel like we’ve got to treat every team like Golden State,” Russell said. “When we came out ready to play, everyone stepped up [against the Warriors]. It wasn’t 48 minutes, but we started the game and gave ourselves a chance. I feel like today we didn’t give ourselves a chance.”
He added, “I feel like we could have given ourselves a better chance by being better prepared coming into the game from the players’ perspective, the players’ standpoint, so we’ve just go to lock in as a group and do that for these last few games.”
Struggles on Ball Movement and Defense Cost Nets
The Nets allowed the Sixers to shoot an unfathomable 80 percent in the first quarter and the visitors finished the opening 12 minutes with a 37-25 lead. While Brooklyn would improve overall in that area, it ultimately let Philadelphia hit 52.6 percent of its shots for the game – a number that is crippling, especially against one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams.
"They were blistering hot in the first half...I just think after that start they played well in the second half as well to seal the deal. But the start really hurt," Spencer Dinwiddie explained after the game.
Then came the issues on offense.
Entering Sunday’s game, Brooklyn was actually third in the league in assists per game (28.0) in its past three games. Against the Sixers, the team’s ball movement stagnated and the Nets’ offense struggled as a result, shooting just 38.8 percent for the game. The home team had just three players in double digits while the visitors had eight. That’s not going to get it done in the NBA.
“It was a just a force they applied,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said after the game. “You just felt the force and they overwhelmed us. From rebounding, to loose balls, to shooting. I thought their rim protection was excellent…We got to the rim and couldn’t convert.”
Brooklyn Struggles Against Philadelphia’s Size
J.J. Redick is Philadelphia’s shortest starter at 6-foot-4 and the team's other starters range from the 6-foot-9 Robert Covington to the 7-foot Joel Embiid. The disparity in size definitely played a factor in the Nets loss on Sunday, according to Atkinson.
“Yeah, it’s tough to deal with [Philadelphia’s length],” Atkinson said after the game. “Embiid causes problems in the post so you’re helping off him then Simmons gets the ball and his size [6-foot-11] causes mismatches. They can switch on you and they are athletic enough to keep you in front.”
Atkinson also believes the visitors were motivated to get payback after their Jan. 31 loss at Brooklyn. “We got them the first game and I knew they were going to come to this game with an edge and a chip, but I think we can do better.”
In a game with few bright spots, Russell’s play definitely stood out. The third-year guard poured in his second-highest point total at Barclays Center and shot an impressive 52.9 percent while adding four assists and four rebounds.
Russell was almost dominant in the third quarter as he scored 12 points and went 5-for-8 from the floor. While Russell has been largely hot and cold in his past five games, his assertiveness was encouraging – especially considering Atkinson’s recent comments about wanting to see his backcourt be less deferential.
Russell’s backcourt partner, Dinwiddie, added a respectable 13 points and six assists.