Brooklyn Nets Opened the 2019 NBA Playoffs With a Bang
The Nets looked ready with their 111-102 win in Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA — The Brooklyn Nets gave the NBA Playoffs an opening jolt on Saturday afternoon.
The team that buried preseason predictions with its 42 wins and a playoff berth went into Philadelphia and never trailed in the second half of its 111-102 win over the third-seeded Sixers.
"We'll take it," said Jared Dudley of embracing an underdog role. "I don't think guys like D'Angelo think they're underdogs."
That's something that's probably been true since these Nets gathered for training camp. Call it the benefit of youth, but there was always an underlying confidence and belief. When you get the affirmation on the court over the course of a season, it's the kind of thing that allows you to deliver a looks-like-we've-been-here-before performance against a team featuring one of the NBA's most high-powered starting lineups.
"I think these young guys really showed up," said DeMarre Carroll, who teams with Jared Dudley and Ed Davis to offer some veteran balance. "Showed the potential. I think tonight we really showed the identity of a true team, not just one person."
Outside of that trio, there's not much experience throughout the roster in the elevated crucible of the NBA playoffs. For players like D'Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs, this was their first playoff game ever. Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris, who was on an NBA Finals team led by LeBron James as a rookie, had seen the atmosphere, while picking up a handful of minutes.
They were opening in front of a Philly crowd. Before the game, Atkinson spoke admiringly of Philadelphia's sports history and passion, going all the way back to the Broad Street Bullies Flyers teams of 45 years ago. His team quieted them down.
"We weren't rattled," said Atkinson. "You're afraid with this crowd and the team they have that they're going to knock you out of the box quick. We took a couple of punches from them, took a couple of runs and still kept our composure. That's big progress for us. Earlier in the season we just wouldn't have the composure to close a game like that out."
Harris kept the Nets close early, and then the playmaking guard trio got going. Russell, Dinwiddie and LeVert combining for 67 points represents almost an idealized version of how the Nets want to play.
They went up by 17, saw the Sixers cut it to eight at halftime and two early in the third quarter. But they never gave up the lead. It helped to take a question off the table right at the beginning of the series how the young team would handle this playoff matchup.
"It gives you that sense of confidence that, obviously it is a different atmosphere but at the end of the day, it is basketball and we've played a lot of games this season, we've won a lot of games," said Harris. "We've been in high pressure situations and won some games. Also lost some. But we've earned the right to be in this position and we knew regardless, winning Game 1, losing Game 1, we were going to make each game competitive."
Part of that was living up to the need to rise up to the intensity and physicality of playoff basketball. It's something Atkinson has referenced throughout the season, and brought up with the playoffs on the horizon.
"We don't want to come into somebody's house and they're being more physical than us," said Carroll. "I think at the end of the day we just came out, we would rather get fouls rather just letting these guys push us around. So at the end of the day I think we did what we were supposed to do. We won Game 1. They're going to regroup, they're going to adjust, and we're going to get their best shot on Monday."
Catch the Brooklyn Nets this Season