The Brooklyn Nets, who had gone 2-5 since the All-Star break, came to Philadelphia looking more like the team that had at one point been at the top of the Eastern Conference this season. They opened the game with the lead and never relinquished it.
The first quarter was all about the Nets. They led 40-23 after one quarter thanks to a 14-2 run to close things out. Kevin Durant started 5 of 5 and looked all up for the challenge, even taking a shot at guarding Joel Embiid on some possessions. Both he and Kyrie Irving had 11 points after 12 minutes and had combined for 34 at halftime.
Andre Drummond tried to get into Embiid’s head early, shoving him and playing physical defense. He couldn’t keep it up though and picked up three fouls in the first quarter, and also injured himself while trying to stop Embiid from powering his way through the hoop. Embiid was already in double-digit free throw attempts before the first quarter ended. However, when James Harden wasn’t on the floor, the Nets were able to blitz Embiid and stop him from dominating down low. Still, the big man was the only one who produced on offense in the first half, finishing with 21 points thanks to making 15 of 19 free throws.
The same was true when Embiid sat, and they blanketed James Harden with a second defender whenever they had the opportunity. While Harden passed Reggie Miller in the all-time list of made three-pointers in the first quarter, but was awful from the field in the first half, finishing 3 of 15 at the whistle.
The Nets didn’t slow down in the second quarter, pushing their lead to 72-51 at halftime, and the Sixers couldn’t buy a bucket from anywhere on the floor. The field goal percentages said it all, with the visitors hitting at a 64.4% clip compared to the Sixers’ 27.1%. The Nets also made 11 of 20 three-pointers compared to the 76ers’ 4 of 13.
Well, the game didn’t get much better for the Sixers in the second half, as the Nets simply continued to pile on the pain. They had no answers on offense, as the Nets left the building with their lunch money and an embarrassing 129-100 scoreline at the whistle.
Seth Curry, who was also sent to Brooklyn in the Ben Simmons trade, was a big X-Factor with his floor spacing, scoring 24 points while making 10 of 14 of his shots. He was also a pest on defense and finished the game with five steals.
Durant had a double-double of 25 points and 14 rebounds, while Irving finished with 22 points, four rebounds and five assists. Man, when these two are on, they’re really on.
On the other side, Harden finished the game with 11 points, six rebounds, five assists and four turnovers while making 3 of 17 of his shots. Embiid also had a tough night from the field with a 5 of 17 performance, but finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds.
Harden, who’s on his third team in the last three years, is going to be particularly miffed about his performance because of how well he’d played for Philadelphia heading into this headliner. He looked so out of sorts, and the Nets did such a good job of making him looked bad, that he’s going to be fuming for quite a while.
With this being the last regular game between the Nets and Sixers, fans in Philly will now be sweating about a potential first round matchup between these two teams. By that time, Simmons should already be ready to suit up for the Nets, which would add even more depth to their rotation. They won’t need Simmons to score for this team, but his elite defense could make all the difference in the playoffs.
Speaking of Simmons, the fans initially showed up ready to boo him, but funnily enough, the Sixers played so badly that they ended up being the target of the fans’ ire at the Wells Fargo Center. That must have been fun for the Australian.
There certainly won’t be any love lost between the two teams, and there are so many branching storylines to follow if they were to meet in the playoffs. The hype train would be off the rails, and NBA fans would probably love every minute of it.