Nets outmatched in first game against the 76ers

The Nets proved that they had no chance against the All-Star caliber duo of James Harden and Joel Embiid as the 76ers took a 121-101 win on Apr. 15 in the first game of the series. The Nets team had just started to gel together after the All-Star break due to the overhaul of its roster. The 76ers on the other hand, have had a whole season to create chemistry and trust each other as a squad, giving them another advantage over the Nets. 

The Nets came into Saturday’s game as the ultimate underdog and a dark horse pick in the Eastern Conference. With no All-Star or All-Star level player on the team, being that Ben Simmons has been ruled out for the rest of the season, there was no chance of the Nets beating the 76ers.

However, there was a sliver of hope by the name of Mikal Bridges who has been on an absolute tear since joining Brooklyn. Bridges has become the offensive anchor since the departure of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and Saturday night proved that he was the key reason the Nets were able to avoid playing in the play-in game. Bridges went ballistic in the first half, scoring 26 points in the first half as he practically carried the Nets’ offense. 

On the other hand, the 76ers dominated as they were expected to. While Harden struggled to make shots on the inside, it was not a problem for him as he stuck to his patented step-back 3-pointer to help put up points on the board. Embiid dominated the paint and looked unstoppable, scoring 10 of his 26 points in the third quarter to help give the 76ers a double-digit lead which only got bigger throughout the game.

The 76ers were able to figure out Bridges in the second half, double teaming him and forcing him to pass the ball to his teammates, who struggled to make shots. This helped the 76ers put a stop to Bridges’ offense, scoring only four points in the second half and playing well on both sides of the ball.

Spencer Dinwiddie failed to make alley-oop passes to his teammates, with the passes being miscalculated and being sent far off the intended player Dinwiddie was passing to. The Nets need more than Bridges’ great offensive performances to bounce back and need an answer for either Embiid or Harden.

Bridges scored 30 points on 12-18 shooting and also grabbed five rebounds. Cam Johnson scored 18 points on 7-11 shooting, while Dinwiddie put up 17 points and dished out seven assists. Nicolas Claxton scored five points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

For the 76ers, Embiid was the leading scorer with 26 points. Harden scored 23 points while shooting 7-13 from the 3-point line to go along with his 13 assists, while Tobias Harris poured in 21 points. Off the bench, Paul Reed was the leading scorer with 11 points. 

The Nets clearly have no chance in taking the series to more than five games against the 76ers unless someone other than Bridges steps up offensively. After halftime, the 76ers were able to easily take care of the Nets' offense by smothering Bridges and forcing passes to teammates who were not able to be the same offensive threat as Bridges. While the Nets did have a higher field goal percentage than the 76ers with 55.7% compared to 47.2% for the 76ers, the 76ers were able to rely on the perimeter for their scoring.

The 76ers attempted and made more 3-pointers than the Nets at 48.8% on 21-43 shooting from the 3-point line compared to 44.8% 13-29 shooting from the 3-point line. The Nets need to attempt and preferably make more 3-point shots to stand a chance against the 76ers and to find a way to stop both Harden and Embiid, which is a hard task to do.

It’s clear that the Nets have no offensive threat outside of Bridges to help spread out the 76ers defense and have the 76ers something to worry about if they were to solely defend Bridges. With the lack of that second offensive threat, the 76ers are likely to roll over the Nets in the first round and easily advance into the second round.