Shorthanded Road Victory Propels Team to Series Lead
The 76ers didn’t have their crown jewel, and his uber-efficient 7-foot-3 back-up fouled out with seven minutes to go in regulation.
There was still enough shine to go around, as the Sixers hunkered down, and grinded their way to a mettle-testing 131-115 victory Thursday at Barclays Center.
The win came in an all-important swing Game 3, and gave the Sixers a 2-1 advantage in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinals battle with the Brooklyn Nets. It also resulted in the Sixers reclaiming home court advantage.
With Joel Embiid ruled out (left knee) 15 minutes before tipoff, plenty of his teammates stepped up, fellow All-Star Ben Simmons chief among them.
The 22-year old point man had his way with Brooklyn on both ends of the court, finishing with a sterling stat line of 31 points (11-13 fg), nine assists, and four rebounds. He tallied 15 of his points in a fourth quarter that, at the outset, saw the Nets claw within six points after trailing by as much as 18 earlier in the evening.
"I thought it was one of Ben's more dominant games," Brett Brown said. "I thought Ben was exceptional."
Another key nugget from Simmons' box score - he converted 9 of 11 foul shots.
"I keep the mindset in the playoffs, you have to play a certain way, keep that same intensity, be locked in and stay focused," said Simmons.
"Whether you look at his confidence, his body language, just walking to the line or the things he did with organic play, I give Ben a tremendous amount of credit," Brown said. "He did it all tonight, particularly without Joel Embiid."
Tobias Harris also turned in a pivotal two-way showing. Like Simmons, he established a new postseason career scoring high, with 29 points. Harris nailed all six of his 3-point attempts and hauled in 16 rebounds as part of a powerful 3-and-D performance.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Harris became the first player in NBA history to record at least 29 points, 16 boards, and six threes in a playoff game. He's the fourth player all-time to hit all of his 3-pointers on a minimum of six attempts.
"I felt good," said Harris. "Obviously, with Joel down, that's a big scoring loss for us right there, so I just had to be aggressive from the start. I was able to let it fly, and it felt good to see it go in and stay confident the whole game."
JJ Redick had the stroke Thursday, too, depositing five triples. He netted 16 of his 26 points in Thursday's third frame.
Amidst one particularly timely spurt of the third, Redick drilled three treys, which helped widen the game from five points to 14.
"We had a lot of players fighting for one another, and embracing each other on the floor," Harris said. "It was big for us."
In an effort to preserve the regular rhythms of their rotation in Embiid's absence, the Sixers continued to use Boban Marjanovic off the bench. Upon subbing in midway through Thursday’s first quarter, he emerged as a game-changing presence by giving the Sixers an interior presence that Brooklyn couldn't match.
Marjanovic was plus-11 in the opening period, plus-15 by halftime, and plus-18 for the game overall. The Serbian posted 14 points and eight boards in a mere 18 minutes.
Veteran Greg Monroe started in place of Embiid, and notched nine points and 13 rebounds.
Click here for a complete box score.
Bobi Big, Again
Boban Marjanovic came through once again. In addition to his 14 points, eight boards, assist, steal, and block, the big man was a flawless 8 for 8 from the foul line.
Marjanovic’s eight first-half points and seven first-half rebounds helped the team get ahead with Joel Embiid on the sideline.
“I think we needed to hold each other [together]," said Marjanovic. "We are here together, we helped each other to get this win, and to play the game better and better."
In Game 2, Marjanovic racked up 16 points, eight rebounds, an assist, and a block. He's now reached double figures in his six consecutive games.
Locking Down on the Perimeter
The Sixers held the Nets to 20.5% on their 3-point field goal attempts (8-39) in Game 3, and just 10.5% in the second half. Brooklyn only scored twice from deep after intermission, once in each of the final two quarters.
The drop-off was steep for the Nets, which connected on 35.3% from deep in the regular season.
Sharp shooter D’Angelo Russell was only 2 for 9 from distance, while Spencer Dinwiddie was 1 for 4. Regular season 3-point efficiency leader Joe Harris was 0 for 4 from the outside.
In the playoffs, an unfriendly environment is to be expected on the road -- but when it came to Ben Simmons, the Brooklyn crowd was particularly feisty Thursday.
His response was to let his game do the talking.
“People are going to say what they want to say, and I can’t let that affect me on my floor,” Simmons said. “I just try and do my job, and step on the floor, and run the point guard position as best I can.”
And do his job he did.
:: face with tears of joy :: emoji
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— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 19, 2019
The Sixers aim to send their first-round series versus Brooklyn back to South Philadelphia with a 3-1 edge. The two Atlantic Division foes will square off again at Barclays Center this Saturday at 3:00 PM EST.