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:
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.
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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