76ers

Predictions for Sixers' first-round playoff series vs. Nets

Predictions for Sixers' first-round playoff series vs. Nets

Playoff basketball returns to the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon (2:30 p.m./NBCSP).

How will the Sixers fare against the Nets? NBC Sports Philadelphia's Paul Hudrick, Danny Pommells and Noah Levick make their predictions for the series. 

Hudrick 

This certainly wasn’t the easiest draw for the Sixers, but it’s the playoffs. The Nets have climbed out of the rubble of their disastrous trade with the Celtics and have assembled a damn good team.

The biggest thing for the Sixers will be containing the guard duo of D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie, especially in the pick-and-roll. Russell and Dinwiddie have combined to average 44.8 points in the four matchups this season.

What encourages me most is the way the Sixers handled them in their most recent matchup, a 123-110 win. Playing at almost full strength, they were able to hold Russell and Dinwiddie to 13 points each. While some of that can be attributed to both players not having their best shooting nights, it was also the Sixers’ plan and execution.

I like the idea of Ben Simmons defending Russell. Simmons is strong enough to fight through pick-and-rolls set by a five, but also has quick enough feet to hang with Russell and force him to take long, contested twos. Same applies for Dinwiddie. When both guards are on the floor, Jimmy Butler has to be guarding one of them. What you can’t have is JJ Redick or T.J. McConnell on either of them.

I don’t see the Sixers losing at home, where they finished 31-10 this season. When/if they do lose a game in Brooklyn, I see them taking it as a smack in the mouth and then closing out the series.

Sixers in five

Pommells 

The Sixers trudged through the end of the regular season, but with a purpose. And the time has come for their stored energy to erupt in the postseason, principally on the Nets. But with the Sixers' starting five boasting a mere 10 games played as a unit (going 8-2 in that stretch), what kind of series should we expect against a team the Sixers split the season series with at 2-2? A tough one. Not to mention Joel Embiid’s health is about as touchy a topic as the Philadelphia soda tax.

Flat out, the Sixers' defense is not good enough to beat the Nets without the full services of Embiid for the majority of the series. I believe he will play and dominate, but there is no way of knowing how Embiid’s knee will respond from game to game. What specifically worries me the most about Brooklyn? The Nets attempt and makes the fifth most three-pointers in the league. Their perimeter shooting is top tier and accentuates a sore spot for the Sixers; great individual perimeter defenders but subpar perimeter defense. It’s strange, I know. I believe the Sixers will win in six games, but it is in their best interest to dispatch of Brooklyn in the least amount of games possible to prepare for the rest of the postseason gauntlet. Jobs and livelihoods are surely on the line for the Sixers.

Sixers in six 

Levick 

Landry Shamet, Furkan Korkmaz, Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala all played key roles during the Sixers’ regular-season series against the Nets. It’s likely none of those players will see significant minutes during this playoff series. Only one of them, Korkmaz, is still on the roster.

Through all the roster turnover, the Sixers’ problems with pick-and-roll defense have remained constant. They’re in much better shape now than they were on Nov. 4, when the Nets beat them by 25 points and Korkmaz, Shamet, Redick and McConnell were targeted often, but it’s still a concern. 

First-time All-Star Russell and Dinwiddie are threats off the dribble, Caris LeVert has averaged 16.0 points and 4.3 assists over his last nine games, and Joe Harris has the best three-point shooting percentage in the NBA. The defensive matchup is clearly a challenge for the Sixers.

I don’t foresee the Sixers having much trouble scoring. Outside of that Nov. 4 loss, when he attempted a season-low eight field goals, Embiid posted 34.7 points per game and shot 61.4 percent from the floor this season against the Nets. Brooklyn can’t handle a healthy Embiid one-on-one, and Embiid’s passing out of double teams — despite his frequent absences — has been impressive recently.

The Sixers’ starting lineup, 8-2 together, has a talent advantage vast enough that the bench doesn’t have to do anything special against Brooklyn. I think the Sixers will take a competitive five-game series. 

Sixers in five 

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Adam Silver explains why NBA won't make a decision on 2019-20 season in April

Adam Silver explains why NBA won't make a decision on 2019-20 season in April

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Monday night in a conversation with TNT’s Ernie Johnson that the league will make no decisions on the state of its season in the month of April.

The NBA season has been suspended since March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Throughout his discussion with Johnson, Silver emphasized that there are too many unknowns for it to be wise to take definitive action at this stage.

Shortly after Silver’s remarks, ESPN’s Baxter Holmes reported the NBA was in the exploratory phase of assessing blood-testing devices for the coronavirus that could deliver results within 15 minutes. 

When we initially shut down … there was a notion of 30 days before there was any of the widespread view at that point that our country would, in essence, be entirely shut down over the next several weeks," Silver said. "And so the fact is, sitting here today, I know less, in a way, than I did then. Just as I listen to the public health experts and the people that are advising us, the virus is potentially moving faster than maybe we had thought at that point, and it therefore may peak earlier. What that means in terms of our ability to come back at some point in late spring or summer is still unknown to me. 

And essentially what I’ve told my folks over the past week is that we should just accept, at least for the month of April, we won’t be in a position to make any decisions. I don’t think that necessarily means on May 1 we will be. But at least I do know, I think just to settle everyone down a little, it doesn’t mean internally … that we aren’t looking at many different scenarios for restarting the season. But I think it honestly is just too early, given what’s happening right now, to be able to project or predict where we’ll be in a few weeks.

Silver was asked by Johnson if a resumed season would pick up in the playoffs, with the remaining regular-season games canceled. If the season had continued as normal, the final regular-season games would have taken place on Sunday. 

“Honestly, we haven’t made any decisions,” he said. “In a perfect world, yes, we would try to finish the regular season in some form and then move on to the playoffs. … What I’ve learned over the last few weeks is we just have too little information to make those sort of projections.” 

He touched on a few of the reported options on the table for the league, including a postseason at a single site such as Las Vegas, and indicated the NBA has indeed considered several of those possibilities.

“There’s been a lot of conjecture about various cities and places that might hold a tournament,” Silver said. “Again, we’re in listening mode right now. We’ve been contacted by many of those jurisdictions [about] what our level of interest is and we’ve talked to them about what their capabilities are. But once again, there’s too much unknown right now.” 

Silver also addressed how the NBA might change in future seasons. He indicated arenas may need to institute physical distancing policies. 

“I’m hoping, at least, that those are short-term issues where we might have to put in effect some sort of social distancing when people first come back to arenas,” he said. “I think a lot of that is specific to this virus and when there might be a vaccine, and if there’s an interim period, even when we’re back to work, where there’s not a vaccine yet — there’s concern about a second wave, what will we need to do?

"But I also have tremendous belief in this country. What’s amazing about Americans not only is their resilience, but the spirit of innovation. … I think we’re going to see a new approach to a lot of these problems.”

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Ben Simmons not-so-subtly hinted at a Sixers trade target over the weekend

Ben Simmons not-so-subtly hinted at a Sixers trade target over the weekend

We've reached the second calendar month of the NBA's hiatus, and Sixers star Ben Simmons is still chatting basketball while streaming his Call of Duty matches on Twitch.

In March, Simmons talked about his views on the best defenders in the league - a list, I'll note, which should include Simmons himself. Over the first weekend of April, Simmons was reading the chat on his stream when he decided to choose a very... interesting comment to read aloud:

Hmm. 

I wonder why Simmons decided to read that comment, out of the hundreds he sees during a stream, and then remind us that he's just reading the comments.

At least one commenter in the chat called out "tampering!", but it's not tampering if you're just reading ideas from other people!

In reality, of course, this is just Simmons joking around with the basketball world. He knows fans (and writers) are glued to things like Twitch streams and Instagram feeds without actual basketball to talk about, so he peppered in a little wink-wink, nudge-nudge joke for us to get fired up about.

Still, it makes you wonder...

Booker would probably be a great fit on today's Sixers team. He's a two-guard who can shoot from anywhere on the floor and create his own shot at will, and he's played point guard in the past, which would help keep the offense running when Simmons checks out. Booker's defense being an afterthought isn't much a problem, considering the Sixers are loaded with great defenders.

The real problem for the Sixers would be acquiring, and affording, Booker. He's in the first year of a five-year max contract with the Suns, so waiting for his contract to end isn't viable. And his deal brings a cap hit of $27 million this year, and climbs each year, all the way up to $36 million by the last year of his contract in 2023-24, when Joel Embiid turns 30.

If the Sixers were somehow able to convince the Suns to take one of Al Horford or Tobias Harris off their hands in exchange for Booker - along with other valuable assets headed to Phoenix, of course - it might be possible to balance a payroll with minimum contract players and young, affordable talent around a core of Embiid, Simmons, and Booker.

But I can't imagine the Suns would jettison their only superstar, who is somehow still just 23 years old, unless they decide to blow it up in the next year or two. So instead we're left dreaming, and making trades in NBA 2K20, and waiting for Simmons' next dispatch.

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