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Predictions for Game 4 of Sixers vs. Nets playoff series

Predictions for Game 4 of Sixers vs. Nets playoff series

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: 

Hudrick
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.

Levick 
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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It sounds like Brett Brown has a long-term plan without Ben Simmons in mind

It sounds like Brett Brown has a long-term plan without Ben Simmons in mind

Updated: Tuesday, 5:09 p.m.

We now have a diagnosis on Ben Simmons' injury. Simmons suffered a nerve impingement in his lower back and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, a team source confirmed Tuesday to NBC Sports Philadelphia (see story). Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium first reported the news.

Speaking before the Sixers' win Monday night over the Hawks, head coach Brett Brown was unsure how long the injury would sideline Simmons. The 23-year-old sustained the injury at practice Wednesday going up for a rebound, according to Brown, and irritated it in the first quarter of Saturday night’s game against the Bucks.

“I don’t know,” Brown said. “And it really is like how long is a piece of string — who knows? Who knows? … Whatever the time equals on days, games, period of time, we can talk more honestly as this thing shakes out.”

However, it sounded as if Brown was preparing for his two-time All-Star point guard to be out for a while. He framed the situation as one the Sixers can cope with if other players take advantage of the chance to play expanded roles.

There’s 25 games left. … It’s an eternity,” he said. “Just keep going back to the end game. What’s the bottom line? I’ll say it again — if you get their health and their spirit, it’s got a chance to equal form. … And it’s all about landing the plane. And so with 25 games left, we’ve taken a hit with Ben. 

"I do see it this way. I’m not spinning it. It’s an opportunity for us to learn and something will emerge. And we need something to emerge. It’s not like we were all saying, ‘Oh, here it is, it’s anointed.’ It wasn’t that. So, I think we’re going to learn something and find something. If this was six games out, I wouldn’t be telling you this story. When it’s 25 games out, it is, with all my heart, what I think. That’s what I said to the team, that’s what I really think and that’s what I’m going to try to pull off.

Who specifically will take over ball handling duties? Brown said it “will be done by committee” for the time being, and he named a few players who he expects to be in that mix. Monday night, the team started Shake Milton, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Joel Embiid. 

“The candidates could be Raul Neto or [Furkan Korkmaz] or Alec Burks or J-Rich, Shake," he said. "So, you have capable people that aren’t traditional point guards but have the ability to get the ball up the floor. Then at that point, you’re probably going to have to be in something that has motion and continuity instead of just giving Chris Paul the ball and saying, ‘Go to work’ out of a pick-and-roll, as an example.”

Regardless of Brown’s attitude, the tangible impact of not having Simmons will clearly be significant. He leads the league in steals, has assisted on the most three-pointers and is a highly athletic, versatile and talented player.

The loss of all those attributes will no doubt be difficult to overcome.

“When there is a vacuum, as there is right now with Ben, something will happen,” Brown said. “Somebody will step up. I’m trying to see the world through those eyes, and I really do — it’s not even creative coach speak. I see it as an opportunity, and I think I need to see it that way.”

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Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons suffered nerve impingement in lower back

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons suffered nerve impingement in lower back

Ben Simmons suffered a nerve impingement in his lower back and will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks, a team source confirmed Tuesday to NBC Sports Philadelphia. Simmons will undergo daily treatment. 

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium first reported the news. 

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports “there's little expectation that [Simmons would] be ready to return to lineup that soon,” and says “doctors are hopeful treatment can drive improvement, but Sixers are preparing to play without him." 

According to head coach Brett Brown, Simmons was first injured at the team’s practice last Wednesday. The 23-year-old All-Star missed the team’s first game after the All-Star break, a win Thursday over the Nets. 

“It was a play where he went up for a rebound and I looked over and he left the court, and went and got treatment,” Brown said Thursday. “And it has played out as it has played out. We don’t believe it’s anything too significant.”

Simmons sat out the Sixers’ game vs. the Nets on Thursday and played Saturday in Milwaukee. He appeared to be in discomfort after drawing a foul in the first quarter on the Bucks’ Brook Lopez. The 23-year-old stayed in the game to make 1 of 2 free throws, then exited when Matisse Thybulle committed a foul to create a stoppage of play and ensure Simmons could return to the locker room.

Ahead of the game against the Bucks, Simmons had averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, 7.9 rebounds and a league-best 2.2 steals. He’d played 36.3 minutes per game, most on the Sixers and third-highest in the NBA ahead of Saturday’s games. 

Brown talked before the Sixers’ win Monday over the Hawks as if he was prepared for a long-term absence. He said the team would split up ball handling responsibilities by committee, with Shake Milton, Josh Richardson and Alec Burks among the possible candidates. Milton started on Monday. 

The 36-22 Sixers are fifth in the Eastern Conference and play the Cavaliers on Wednesday night in Cleveland. 

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