76ers

Sixers 112, Nets 108: Joel Embiid otherworldly, Mike Scott makes game-winning three-pointer as Sixers take wild Game 4

Sixers 112, Nets 108: Joel Embiid otherworldly, Mike Scott makes game-winning three-pointer as Sixers take wild Game 4

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NEW YORK — It was never in doubt.

Led by an otherworldly Joel Embiid, the Sixers took a commanding 3-1 series lead with a thrilling 112-108 win over the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center Saturday afternoon.

JJ Redick, who struggled for much of the game, hit a huge three to give the Sixers a 107-106 lead with 50 seconds left. Then Joe Harris, who has had a nightmare of a series, hit a backdoor layup with 25 seconds left to give Brooklyn a 108-107 lead.

Mike Scott, who also hasn’t had the best series, nailed a corner three with 18.6 left to put the Sixers up 110-108. The Sixers then smothered Jarrett Allen underneath as Ben Simmons just ripped the ball out of his hands. Tobias Harris hit a pair of free throws to seal the win.

Listed as doubtful coming in, Embiid was spectacular in every aspect of the game and willed his team to a win.

The Sixers will have a chance to punch their ticket to the second round Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Here are observations from the win:

• We were waiting for this series to get a little extra physical and we got that and then some in the third quarter. Embiid committed a hard foul on Allen. Then Jared Dudley went after Embiid. Jimmy Butler then came to the defense of Embiid and shoved Dudley.

When the dust settled, Embiid got called for a dubious Flagrant 1 foul and Butler and Dudley were both given double technicals and ejected. That’s a trade-off the Nets will take any day of the week. Butler was having a strong game up until that point as well. The Sixers also could’ve used Butler in the fourth quarter with the game still close.

• We should all probably stop guessing whether Embiid is going to play. He played and looked strong early. He made his first two buckets from the top of the key and hit a midrange jumper and short hook shot. He made two sensational passes out of double teams, finding two open corner threes — a Scott miss and Butler make. It’s something Embiid has improved on tremendously.

Defensively, this guy is just ridiculous. The combo of Simmons and Embiid in the pick-and-roll on defense hasn’t ended well for the Nets in this series. Embiid had three blocks in the first half alone. He played just 10 minutes and was a plus-8 before halftime.

He was phenomenal Saturday, finishing with 31 points, 16 rebounds, six blocks and seven assists in 31 minutes.

The chemistry between the pair was strong again on offense as Embiid spotted Simmons on doubles multiple times. Simmons was solid again, recording 15 points, eight assists and eight rebounds.

• Nets coach Kenny Atkinson knows he’s not going to win a defensive battle with the Sixers. With that in mind, he inserted Caris LeVert into the starting lineup. LeVert scored the first bucket of the game on his way to 11 first-quarter points. He gave Brooklyn juice early on, helping the Nets get out to a nine-point lead after one.

LeVert (25 points) and reserve guard Spencer Dinwiddie (18 points) sparked the Nets in a big way, while D’Angelo Russell (6 of 19 for 21 points) and Joe Harris (4 of 14 for 10 points) continued to struggle.

The other change was inserting Dudley. It was a much smaller starting five without DeMarre Carroll and Rodions Kurucs. Dudley and Simmons did share some words after an early timeout, but nothing came out of it.

• It’s noticeable that Brett Brown has listened more and more to his players. You saw a bunch of pick-and-rolls with Butler and Harris featured as the ball handlers. It’s not a staple of Brown’s offense, but it is something both Butler and Harris excel in. It’s also something the Nets struggle to defend.

Both players got off to strong starts, as Harris posted a team-high 14 points in the first half and Butler had 11. They had three assists each as well.

Harris seems to be getting more and more time at the point, and he seems to be relishing that role. He had 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists. He was 0 for 4 from three after hitting 6 of 6 in Game 3.

• Unfortunately, Boban Marjanovic came back down to earth early on in this one. Brooklyn was able to expose him, most noticeably Allen, who hasn’t matched up against Marjanovic much. This was Allen’s most productive game of the series. The second-year big had 21 points.

In a game in which the Sixers seemed very wary of Embiid’s minutes in the first half, Brown had trouble finding a solution with Marjanovic struggling. Rookie Jonah Bolden came in and looked like a rookie —  he played three minutes and was a minus-6. Greg Monroe didn’t fare much better in his quick stint.

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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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