After a 131-115 win in Brooklyn on Thursday night, the Sixers can come home a game away from advancing to the second round.
Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick give their predictions for Game 4:
With Joel Embiid listed as doubtful … I actually have no clue what that means. He was doubtful in Game 1, but played. He was questionable in Game 2 and played. He was questionable and said his knee was getting better before Game 3, but didn’t play.
If the Sixers are looking to get Embiid rest, they’re playing a dangerous game. If Embiid is available, even if not at 100 percent, it would make more sense to play him, win Game 4 and then rest him for Game 5. When you start getting into these scenarios at all it seems dicey.
The good news for the Sixers is that they’ve proven they can beat the Nets without their All-Star center. Ben Simmons was the best player on the floor Thursday night while Tobias Harris appears to have gotten his swagger back. Brooklyn looked like it had never seen the JJ Redick dribble handoff action before, as the Sixers repeatedly went to that well.
The biggest reason the Sixers appear to be OK without Embiid is the steady play of Boban Marjanovic. The hulking center has been the team’s most consistent player in the series. You expect his efficient offense (14.3 points in 17.3 minutes a game while shooting 62 percent) but his defense was a major concern coming into this series. He’s more than stepped up to the challenge of being able to affect shots at the rim from the Nets’ dangerous guard trio.
The proposition of starting Greg Monroe isn’t great, but if the veteran big can just be a little better than he was in Game 3, it could go a long way.
With or without Embiid for Game 4, the Sixers come back to the Wells Fargo Center with a chance to punch their ticket to the second round.
The Sixers’ offense dictated the action in Game 3, playing at a pace which Nets coach Kenny Atkinson admitted was beyond his team’s comfort level. The ability of Simmons, Jimmy Butler and Harris to push the ball up the floor has allowed the Sixers to play at a fast tempo without an exorbitant number of turnovers.
In theory, the idea of playing zone to force the Sixers to deviate from their favored patterns and actions is sensible for the Nets, but it doesn’t matter much if the Sixers don’t give Brooklyn’s defense time to set up. Using a zone also doesn’t seem like the smartest idea for the Nets when Harris (6 for 6 from three-point range in Game 3) and Redick (5 for 9) are on the floor.
Joe Harris, 0 for 6 from three-point territory in the last two games, is due for a big game. So too is Butler, limited to 19 points total in Games 2 and 3. I expect Butler to take control at the point in the fourth quarter and help the Sixers seal another win at Barclays Center.
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