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Predictions for Game 3 of Sixers vs. Nets playoff series

Predictions for Game 3 of Sixers vs. Nets playoff series

The Sixers used a record-setting third quarter in Game 2 to convincingly beat the Nets and even the series at 1-1.

Can the Sixers carry that momentum over into Game 3 (8 p.m./NBCSP/MyTeams app)? Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick give their predictions:

Hudrick
In last year’s playoffs, the Miami Heat played the Sixers tough. They were physical — sometimes bordering on dirty — and the young Sixers battled through it. Emotions boiled over at times, including one instance where Goran Dragic smacked Ben Simmons in the head.

This series against the Brooklyn Nets may be entering a similar phase. While I do believe Joel Embiid wasn’t intending to elbow Jarrett Allen in the neck in Game 2, it still happened. And while Embiid and Simmons sharing a laugh about the situation was more about Embiid showing a little humility for a change, put yourself in the Nets’ shoes. The Sixers beat you up physically, they put up a record-setting third quarter and then laughed about it postgame.

This could get ugly.

Expect Brooklyn to come out fired up on their home court, but also expect the Sixers to relish the role of villain. Embiid always seems to get a little extra juice from boos and trash talk. There should be plenty of both Thursday.

What you saw out of the Sixers in the third quarter in Game 2 likely isn’t repeatable, but it does show what this team is capable of when they’re attacking the rim and defending the pick-and-roll and three-point line. The Sixers have more talent than the Nets and that was on display Monday.

My bold prediction for this one is that Tobias Harris fully breaks out of his slump. He had a 12-point third quarter Monday and played some of the best defense we’ve seen from him since he got here. After sounding dejected following a rough Game 1, he looked like he got his swagger back.

Sixers win a tight one and take back home-court advantage.

Levick
The Sixers’ last game in Brooklyn was one of their most memorable this season. They came back from a 20-point deficit on Nov. 25 thanks to 18 fourth-quarter points from Jimmy Butler, including a game-winning three-pointer over Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with 0.4 seconds left.

I don’t expect the Sixers will find themselves in such a large hole Thursday night.

Just about every adjustment Brett Brown made for Game 2 worked. No T.J. McConnell or Jonathon Simmons, with James Ennis as his main backup wing; more Jimmy Butler at the point; a forceful halftime message to run Brooklyn off the three-point line — all effective.

Kenny Atkinson will likely make some tweaks for Game 3 in response. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the game earlier to challenge Boban Marjanovic defensively. Atkinson might also decide enough is enough and start respecting Marjanovic’s ability as a shooter. More physicality when Ben Simmons gets into the paint wouldn’t be the worst idea either; Simmons is just 3 for 9 from the foul line in the series.

The problem for Atkinson and the Nets is, in all likelihood, their adjustments will be at the margins. There’s not much they can do about the Sixers’ superior talent other than sagging way off Simmons and Embiid, a strategy those two countered well in Game 2 simply by attacking the open space without hesitation and putting pressure on the defense.

The Sixers won’t score 52 points in the first quarter, as Butler said he hoped they would, but they’ll take Game 3.

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2019 NBA free agent targets: Could Patrick Beverley or Malcolm Brogdon fit with the Sixers?

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USA Today Images/AP Images

2019 NBA free agent targets: Could Patrick Beverley or Malcolm Brogdon fit with the Sixers?

The Sixers have plenty of housekeeping to do with just four players on their roster — plus first-round pick Matisse Thybulle — but they may need some outside help as well.

We begin our free agency targets by looking at possible point guard options. With Ben Simmons clearly entrenched in the starting role, we won’t be looking at the big names like Kyrie Irving and D’Angelo Russell.

These five players would fit nicely in a bench role or perhaps starting next to Simmons.

Patrick Beverley

Beverley will become a fan favorite most likely immediately. The 30-year-old guard is a defensive maven whose best skill is getting under his opponents’ skin. In addition to that, Beverley has become an elite three-point shooter. He’s shot nearly 40 percent on over four attempts a game over the last four seasons. Beverley likely won’t come cheap, but if you’re unable to bring back only one — or neither — of Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris, he’d make a ton of sense. He’s not necessarily a true point guard offensively, but with his ability to shoot, he’d slot in quite nicely next to Simmons.

Malcolm Brogdon

This one is a little tricky because Brogdon is a restricted free agent and there is no doubt Milwaukee would love to re-sign him. The issue is that the Bucks are dealing with their own cap issues after giving Eric Bledsoe an extension and with starters Khris Middleton and Robin Lopez about to hit the open market. Brogdon is just a complete player. His shooting numbers were elite last season as part of the 50/40/90 club. He can rebound, he can pass, he doesn’t turn the ball over and is a strong defender. He’s the perfect kind of complementary player for the Sixers — if they can afford him — and you’d be taking away from one of your main competitors.

Cory Joseph

If you look just at Joseph’s numbers, you might wonder why he’s on this list. He’s not much of a scorer and his three-point shooting has been pretty volatile during his NBA career. With that said, he’s an excellent defender. Think about how much the Sixers struggled during the season with scoring guards and in the pick-and-roll. Joseph can be the guy who sticks Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie. He’s an upgrade over T.J. McConnell defensively and he’ll at least take open looks. Joseph spent his first two seasons in San Antonio while Brett Brown was in charge of player development, so there’s a connection there.

Trey Burke

While Burke will likely never live up to his status as a top-10 pick, there’s still an intriguing NBA skill set there. He’s a shot creator, something the Sixers could use, and his three-point shooting has been above average over his last three NBA seasons (37 percent). His size and defense will be a concern, but you’d hope the presence of Simmons could help mitigate that. Burke is still just 26 so there’s also a reasonable chance he improves — especially when surrounded by better players. 

Delon Wright

Wright is a tier below some of these other names, but he’s interesting. A first-round pick in 2015, Wright spent the first 3 ½ seasons of his career in Toronto before going to Memphis in the Marc Gasol trade. His shooting has been pretty up and down, but he can score thanks to his ability to change speeds. He has great size at 6-foot-5 and is a decent passer and rebounder. Defensively, he’s long and versatile and is active in passing lanes. He’s restricted so Memphis can match offers, but how much do they want to spend on a guard with Ja Morant now in the fold?

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Strong basketball bloodline runs through Sixers' second-round pick Marial Shayok

Strong basketball bloodline runs through Sixers' second-round pick Marial Shayok

For Marial Shayok, basketball is in his blood. His 6-foot-9 father, Makor, was a fierce rebounder at Dayton University before playing overseas. His older sister Yar, who is 6-1, carried on the tradition with a solid career at the University of Detroit Mercy before playing overseas herself. His older brother Shayok, who also stands 6-9, played at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“I was born into it,” Shayok said to NBC Sports Philadelphia Friday. “Even the neighborhood that I was raised in was a basketball neighborhood, with the rise of Vince Carter when I was a young kid, and having a bunch of stars in the NBA really emerge, like rockstars. So basketball was always the main thing in my life and the dream.”

Marial is now the first Shayok, and Ottawa native, to reach the NBA.

“I was able to be the first one out of my family, out of my city of Ottawa, to be drafted to the NBA and I’m so happy and grateful to be in this position,” Shayok said.

“Everyone (in my family) had a part in this accomplishment and so we were all obviously very emotional.”

One of the oldest players in the draft at 23 years old, Shayok knew there were no guarantees on draft night. Shayok had worked out for the Sixers early in the draft process, but he had also worked out with 14 other teams, in addition to showcasing his skills at the Portsmouth Invitational, Combine and G-League Elite camp.

He knew he had a solid season as a redshirt senior at Iowa State, as the only player nationally to average 18.5 points while shooting at least 49 percent from the field, 38 percent behind the arc, and 87 percent at the free throw line.

But, he also knew his offensive abilities weren’t on display for the first three years of his collegiate career at the University of Virginia.

“Just trying to stay positive,” Shayock said about the uncertainty on draft night. “I think I did pretty well in the draft process. … and I really just left it in God’s hands, kept my faith and I’m just glad and grateful that I’m here.”

Sixers general manager Elton Brand is glad, too.

“We studied him for awhile,” Brand said Thursday night after the draft concluded. “Started for three years at Virginia, where he was more of a defensive player and then he transferred and became an offensive player, averaging over 18 points per game, great three-point shooter. Tough, gritty. Young talent and he can play.”

The Sixers have already made their impression on Shayock.

“The organization is obviously one of the best in the league, one of the best teams in the league with the talent they have, with two of the biggest stars in the NBA," he said. "Me, being the player that I am, hopefully I can just come in and be confident and help win games.

“It’s surreal, a dream come true, still hard to believe. I don’t even think it’s sunk in yet. But it’s reality and I’m just definitely grateful and glad that I’m here.”

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