Headed Home, 3-1 Series Lead in Hand
The 76ers knew that Saturday’s Game 4 presented an opportunity to tip the scales of their opening round matchup with the Brooklyn Nets heavily in their favor - to potentially “take a lot of oxygen” out of the series, as Brett Brown put it beforehand.
After the Sixers spent most of the afternoon battling uphill against a desperate opponent, it was Mike Scott who sucked the air out of Barclays Center, burying a go-ahead 3-pointer with 18.6 seconds to go.
The shot was the byproduct of a near-broken sequence in which the Sixers almost lost the ball on an entry pass to Joel Embiid.
Instead, thanks first to a nifty save and pass to the corner by Embiid, then Scott’s ensuing clutch deposit, the club left New York with a 112-108 victory, and a commanding 3-1 advantage in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
. Cashed Out.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 20, 2019
The Sixers have won the last three games, and can eliminate Brooklyn this Tuesday, when the series returns to The Center in South Philadelphia.
“My job is just to space the floor and be a decoy,” said Scott, who posted eight points (3-6 fg / 2-4 3fg) and eight rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench. “Tobias tried to get it to Jo. The pass got deflected. Jo made a hell of a hustle play and saw me in the corner. Cashed out.”
Easy as that.
Harris has spent the entire season with Scott, albeit not in a Sixers uniform. Along with Boban Marjanovic, they started the year with the LA Clippers, before a February trade sent them to the Sixers.
It’s safe to say Harris has developed a keen eye for Scott’s stroke.
“The second it left his hands, I knew it was good,” said Harris (24 pts / 8 reb / 6 ast). “It was a great shot. Mike puts in the work. He’s one of the best shooters in the NBA and to see him get that shot to fall, that’s a big confidence boost for our team, and likely for him too.”
In a fiery affair that reached a fevered pitch in the second half (Jimmy Butler and Jared Dudley were ejected in the third quarter for exchanging shoves), Embiid was once again at the forefront.
That he continues to deliver dazzling, high-impact contributions after missing games and having little to no practice time at this point shouldn’t be a surprise. Nevertheless, it remains darn impressive.
Listed as doubtful heading into Saturday’s contest, Embiid was a gametime decision, as he’s been every game of this first round series. The big man was announced as a starter 15 minutes before tip-off, and proceeded to swiftly score the Sixers’ first four points.
It was Embiid’s closing act, though, that lowered the curtain on the Nets. He flat out dominated the fourth quarter, going for 12 of his game-high 31 points (12-22 fg / 1 3fgm / 6-6 ft).
During one pivotal stretch of the period, with the Sixers down seven with five minutes to play, Embiid snapped off eight straight points to vault his team in front.
The assist on Scott’s game-winning triple, Embiid’s seventh dime of the day, was the icing on the cake.
“He’s a player,” Ben Simmons (15 pts / 8 reb / 8 ast) said of Embiid, who also racked up 16 rebounds and six blocked shots. “He’s ready to come in and do his job. It’s just his mindset, I think, knowing his size and his ability to put the ball in the rim and make plays. He’s always just ready, and he works a lot.”
“It was great,” said Harris. “We fed him down there. We knew that was the biggest mismatch on the court. He’s our best player. We just had to go let him eat out there. He was able to be super productive for us.”
Embiid only logged 11 minutes in Saturday’s first half. He nearly matched that total in the fourth.
“I’m just trying to live in the paint,” said the 7-footer, who owned Brooklyn, regardless of whether the Nets went big or small. “They’re going to have to double team me, I figured that out. They’re going to have to send two or three guys. If they’re going to guard me in single coverage, I’m going to dominate and I’m also going to make the right pass. That’s my job.”
He and the Sixers got it done Saturday. Now, as early as Tuesday, they can clinch a second-round berth for a second straight season.
Click here for a complete box score.
Defense Locked in in Fourth
The Sixers held the Nets to just 17 points on 5 for 19 shooting in a close-out fourth quarter. Up until that point, Brooklyn had scored at least 28 points in each of the first three frames.
“I thought our defense rose to another level in the fourth period when it mattered most,” said Brett Brown.
In the final period, the Sixers held Spencer Dinwiddie (18 pts / 4 reb) to just three points on 1 for 4 shooting; Caris LeVert (25 pts / 5 reb / 6 ast) to one point on 0 for 3 shooting; and Jarrett Allen (21 pts / 8 reb / 4 ast) to two points on 1 for 2 shooting.
The Sixers ended the game on an 8-2 run.
Ben’s Standout Series
Ben Simmons brought a strong game once again, delivering another positive performance in Brooklyn. Simmons hit 7 of his 12 shots overall, and handed out four of his eight helpers in Saturday’s critical fourth quarter.
Jimmy Butler has been most impressed by Simmons’ performances as a defender and a facilitator.
“I think Ben has done a great job on DLo [D’Angelo Russell], and contesting every single three that he has [taken], being aggressive at the rim, finding guys when they’re open,” Butler said. “He’s our point guard, he runs everything, he’s so smart, he knows how to get guys involved.”
Simmons has had at least 15 points and eight assists in each of the Sixers’ three wins in the series. In those outings, Simmons has shot a combined 69.9% from the floor.
“I think he’s been pretty dominant,” Butler said.
Jimmy Supports His Big Man
Following Saturday’s emotional contest, Jimmy Butler (11 pts / 4 reb / 2 stl) joined Joel Embiid at the press conference podium.
It was a flagrant one foul called on Embiid (who appeared to block a shot cleanly) that led to the incident that resulted in Butler’s ejection. In the heat of battle, Butler’s intentions were pure.
“I’m just here to protect my big fella,” Butler said.
As for Embiid? He was appreciative.
“I for sure fed off that,” said Embiid. “It’s great to see that, to play with guys who care about you and have your back.”
Pure joy from the gentle giant.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 20, 2019
Returning to South Philadelphia with a pair of wins in tow, the Sixers will have the opportunity to clinch the series at home, hosting Brooklyn Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. EST for Game 5 at The Center.
Check back later for updates to this story.