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Predictions for Game 5 of Sixers vs. Nets playoff series

Predictions for Game 5 of Sixers vs. Nets playoff series

After a dramatic Game 4 win in Brooklyn that had everything you could've wanted, the Sixers can finish off the Nets Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick give their predictions for Game 5: 

Hudrick
We’ve gotten the most positive injury update about Joel Embiid this entire series with him being listed as probable for Game 5 with left knee soreness. Though it’s super dangerous to do so, let’s look at this under the assumption Embiid will play.

Before Game 4 in Brooklyn, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson sounded like a man searching for answers. He lauded the Sixers’ starting five and it’s easy to see why. Of the five-man lineups that have played at least 30 minutes together this postseason, the Sixers’ starting unit has the highest offensive, defensive and net rating. Not too shabby for a group still working on its chemistry.

Brooklyn appears to be a desperate team. Their general manger burst into the referees’ locker room after Game 4 and their owner passive aggressively tweeted about officiating. Both were fined. With that said, it looks like the Sixers took the Nets’ best shot already.

The team has denied it, but that Game 1 loss sure seemed like a wake-up call. Jared Dudley poked the bear with Ben Simmons and Embiid is thriving in his villain role. Tobias Harris has also gotten his swagger back, and not a moment too soon. It feels like there’s a loose vibe around the Sixers right now. As a team, they appear to be in a good place.

“We want Toronto” chants will start about midway through the fourth quarter, and in front of a raucous Wells Fargo Center crowd, the Sixers end the series.

Levick 
The Nets, fined a collective $85,000 following their loss Saturday ($25,000 for general manager Sean Marks, $25,000 for Jared Dudley and $35,000 for owner Joe Tsai), have nothing to lose — besides their season. They’ll reach another level of desperation in Game 5 and keep trying to irritate the Sixers as much as possible. Dudley is going to be booed like he’s never been booed before.

I don’t think any of it will matter much. The Sixers are clearly the more talented team in this series, and Joel Embiid the most dominant player. 

One reason the Nets have for optimism is their subpar three-point shooting over the past couple of games, particularly from Joe Harris. Brooklyn shot a combined 20 for 77 (26 percent) from long range in Games 3 and 4, and Harris — the NBA’s leader in three-point percentage during the regular season — is 0 for his last 12 from three. Though the Sixers’ defense is responsible for some of the Nets’ struggles from three-point territory, Brooklyn has missed plenty of open looks. They're due for an improved shooting performance.

Kenny Atkinson’s decision to place Dudley and LeVert in the starting lineup for Game 4 was effective, but it’s apparent the Nets simply don’t have the personnel to handle Embiid in the paint, Simmons in transition and Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris in the pick-and-roll.

I’m sticking with Sixers in five. 

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Sixers Talk podcast: Are the Sixers still a Finals contender?

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Sixers Talk podcast: Are the Sixers still a Finals contender?

The Sixers are off to a solid start for any team, but the Sixers were built to be a championship contender. Danny Pommells and Anthony Gilbert discuss that and who will take up the open role in the starting lineup on this edition of Sixers Talk, presented by Wilmington University.

• Are the Sixers still a Finals contender? (2:00)

• Who will move into the starters lineup in place of Al Horford? (6:34)

• Did the Sixers miss on the trade deadline? (10:31)

• This team lacks veteran leadership (20:42)

• Story time with Anthony Gilbert (29:03)

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Joel Embiid thinks idea he can't be effective with Ben Simmons is 'BS'

Joel Embiid thinks idea he can't be effective with Ben Simmons is 'BS'

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons both rejected the notion that they’re incapable of playing together effectively Saturday at All-Star Weekend in Chicago. 

”I think it's BS, because when you look at the last couple years, the last two years that we've been playing together, it's not a problem,” Embiid told reporters, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “This year it's only been a problem because our offense has struggled.

"It's definitely going to be better after the All-Star break. I mean, just look at the last two years, what we've been able to do. I think it can work, and it's going to work."

The Sixers were indeed very good when the pairing shared the floor the past two years. Lineups with Embiid and Simmons had net ratings of plus-15.5 in 2017-18 and plus-7.8 in 2018-19. This season, that number has dropped to plus-1.3.

"It takes time," Simmons said. "Not everything is perfect. Not everything works right away. I love playing with Joel. I think he's an amazing talent, a guy I respect for his game, and I know he feels the same way about me. We continue to go the right way. There's so many different things that we haven't tried. We've got a lot of talent. It's scary how good we can be."

On Feb. 5, Embiid suggested he was having to detract from his own offensive game for the greater good.

“How we played last year, obviously a different structure, the ball movement was better, and this year we've got different players,” he said. “I’ve sacrificed a lot, trying to make everybody feel comfortable, and that's normal.

“We've all got to sacrifice and if it means taking less shots just to make sure everyone is happy and keep winning, then that's what we've got to do. But at the same time, we've still got to understand what's going on around us and how we can help each other be better.”

Pertinent statistics don’t seem to support the idea that Embiid has had to sacrifice much. While his usage rate has dropped from 32.7 to 30.3, his post-ups per game are identical (8.1) and his three-point attempts per 36 minutes are nearly the same (4.6 this year, 4.4 last year). 

However, until Brett Brown’s major adjustment Tuesday night vs. the Clippers, he’d been in a starting lineup with Al Horford, a pairing that hasn’t been beneficial for either player. Embiid and Horford are the only Sixers' two-man lineups with at least 400 minutes together to have a negative net rating (minus-1.1) and have been poor offensively.

As for Embiid and Simmons, the two were strong against the Clippers, both personally and as a combination. They complemented each other well in the high and low post as Embiid had 26 points and nine rebounds and Simmons posted 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

Brown said it was “arguably the best game those two have paired up with” since he started coaching them. 

Simmons will be on Team LeBron and Embiid will be on Team Giannis for Sunday night’s All-Star Game. 



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