NCAA Tournament, Knicks, Nets, Rose

76ers edge out a close victory against the Nets despite Harden’s 3rd quarter ejection

Joel Embiid blocked a potential game-tying driving layup to bring the 76ers up 3-0 after a nail-biting 102-97 win over the Nets. This game did not come without some heated tension amongst both teams which led to a flagrant foul on Embiid and an ejection for both James Harden and Nicolas Claxton.

In the third quarter, Harden attempted to drive by Royce O’Neale in which Harden reached his hand out and pushed his hand into the groin of O’Neale. This caused O’Neale to writhe in pain and the referees to give Harden a flagrant 2 foul and an automatic ejection from the game. This left the 76ers without Harden for the fourth quarter in which the Nets tried to use this as an opportunity to win the game, but they could not put a stop to Tyrese Maxey who carried the offense for the remainder of the game. 

The 76ers were nearly without Embiid for the entire game, as three minutes into the first quarter, Embiid kicked Claxton while he was on the ground after Claxton caught a pass from Mikal Bridges and dunked on Embiid. Claxton stepped over Embiid, which prompted Embiid to kick Claxton in the leg. Claxton was charged with a technical foul while Embiid was charged with a flagrant 1.  

Maxey helped carry the 76ers' offensive load in the fourth quarter with 10 points in the quarter as Embiid was seen limping and could not do too much on the court. Harden, who left the game with 21 points, was nowhere to be seen in the final quarter due to his ejection. The Nets experienced an ejection of their own as well, as in the fourth quarter, Claxton was given his second technical foul after taunting Embiid after a dunk, leading to the ejection.

This left the Nets without their big man to defend Embiid. The Nets were up 96-91 after a tip-in shot by O’Neale. With two minutes remaining in the game, Maxey took it upon himself to lead the team to victory. He hit a shot from the 3-point line, and immediately followed back after a Nets’ miss with a two-point shot to tie up the game at 96. 

The 76ers were able to grab their own miss which prompted a timeout. Out of the timeout, Maxey hit a step-back 3-pointer to give the 76ers the lead. A shooting foul by the 76ers helped the Nets cut the lead down, and a miss by Maxey gave the Nets their best opportunity to tie up the game down two points.

With 13 seconds remaining, Dinwiddie rushed to the paint which looked like an open lane for a driving layup, but was blocked by Embiid. The block by Embiid saved the game for the 76ers and were able to secure the win after shooting free throws due to the intentional fouls by the Nets. 

Bridges led the Nets in the scoreboard with 26 points, along with six rebounds and five assists. Dinwiddie also put up 20 points with seven assists and two steals, while Claxton had 18 points until his ejection in the fourth quarter. Cam Johnson had a good all-around game with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists. Off the bench, O’Neale had seven points and six rebounds, while Cam Thomas had six points. 

Maxey led the 76ers in points for the second straight game with 25 points, while Harden was right behind him with 21 points, five rebounds and 4 assists prior to his ejection in the third quarter. Tobias Harris had 15 points and seven rebounds, while Embiid had 14 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. De’Anthony Melton led the bench in points with 13. 

Even with the advantage of not having James Harden at all in the fourth quarter, the Nets failed to capitalize on the situation and could not get the win. They struggled to defend against Maxey in the fourth quarter which led to the loss of their lead, along with trying to go against Embiid’s paint defense. Dinwiddie could not compete against Embiid while going in the paint, which led to the block and the loss for the Nets.

The Nets are due to being eliminated and putting an end to their wild season. The Nets are likely to lose the next game and immediately focus their attention on the next season. What happens next for the Nets is up for grabs, but the hope for them is to rebuild themselves back to championship contention. The core roster of the Nets now is solid and good, but far from being playoff contenders. The need for a star player is the biggest piece of the puzzle that is missing within the Nets organization.

Whether they can draft and develop an All-Star remains to be seen, or they could pick up an All-Star during the offseason to help for the next season. The future of Ben Simmons is unknown at this point, but there is a likelihood he may stay for the next season.

It will be an interesting dynamic to see how Simmons can play with the current roster and how far he can take them throughout the next season, assuming he is healthy. 

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