Even without Embiid, 76ers complete sweep of Nets to move past first round

The Nets 2023 season officially came to an end on April 22nd after the 76ers completed the 4-0 sleep in a 96-88 victory. The 76ers were without their MVP candidate All-Star in Joel Embiid on Saturday’s game after suffering a right knee sprain. However, this did not stop the 76ers from putting up an offensive clinic and coming back from a double digit deficit to complete the sweep.

The Nets played well for the first half, relentlessly attacking the paint and taking full advantage of the 76ers not having Embiid on the floor. The attacking of the basket, as well as hitting shots in the perimeter gave them their largest lead in the series during the third quarter when they were up 53-42.

Without Embiid taking the brunt of the defense, the Nets were able to contain the 76ers guards and prevent any good looks and opportunities to score. This first-half defense looked to be a turning point for them and the Nets could have taken home a Game 4 win if they were able to keep their lead and played consistently coming out of halftime.

The Nets could not hold on to the lead for long, as the 76ers made up for the lack of Embiid’s presence on the floor by being aggressive on offense. Back-to-back 3-pointers from James Harden and P.J. Tucker ignited a 14-0 run for the 76ers and brought back their lead. The Nets could not bring back their mojo from the first half, missing their shots and failing to defend the 76ers who were able to mount a comeback. They were without a star player to help bring attention towards them and so the 76ers were able to defend and attack all over the court without the fear of a star player on the other side.

While the Nets had a small offensive comeback and took a quick 72-70 lead early in the fourth quarter after a two-point shot by Mikal Bridges, the 76ers were able to gain a tight grasp over them throughout the remainder of the game as they held onto the lead and prevented any sort of comeback. 

For the Nets, Spencer Dinwiddie led the team with 20 points and six assists, while Nicolas Claxton was right behind him with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Bridges had a solid game with 17 points and five assists, while Cam Johnson put a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds to go along with four assists. Off the bench, Joe Harris had four points, while Royce O’Neale had three points and four assists.

Tobias Harris led the 76ers on the scoreboard with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Harden put up a near triple-double as he put up 17 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists, while Tyrese Maxey had a strong game with 16 points and eight rebounds. Paul Reed filled in admirably for Embiid in the starting lineup with 10 points and 15 rebounds. Off the bench, De’Anthony Melton led the teamwith 15 points. 

While the 76ers get to move on to the second round and face the Boston Celtics, the Nets get swept and leave empty handed. With their season officially coming to a close, they can now focus on the future. The Nets have two first round picks, along with a second round pick in this year’s draft. They can hopefully get two first round players with a lot of upside, and can hopefully be molded into star players for the Nets. The Nets should grab someone who can be consistent on a nightly basis and be able to gel well with the Nets’ system.

After being out-rebounded 54-38 in Game 4, the Nets need a player that can be aggressive on defense and grab rebounds for the team to give them more opportunities to score. They should not only look for their future star player, but look for a player that can play their role well and be a big impact on the team.

The Nets have a decent core of players around them, and are only missing a couple pieces that can make them playoff contenders. Hopefully, this team has gained some experience together in this playoff environment and use the lessons learned into the next season.