76ers

Sixers 145, Nets 123: Ben Simmons and company leave no doubt in historic Game 2 win

Sixers 145, Nets 123: Ben Simmons and company leave no doubt in historic Game 2 win

BOX SCORE 

Whatever the message was at halftime, it definitely worked.

The Sixers used a record-setting 51-point third quarter to crush the Nets, 145-123, Monday night in Game 2 at the Wells Fargo Center.

Thanks to some more hot shooting by Brooklyn, the Sixers held just a one-point advantage at the break. Then Joel Embiid, a game-time decision heading in, started to look like himself, and Ben Simmons continued a brilliant bounce-back performance.

The 51 points were the most ever scored in the third quarter and tied for the most in any quarter of a playoff game in NBA history. The 145 points set a playoff franchise record.

The series now heads up to Brooklyn for Game 3 Thursday tied, 1-1.

Here are observations from the win:

• Simmons said at practice on Sunday that he was planning to be much more aggressive in Game 2. He was a man of his word from the opening tip … literally.

After Embiid won the tip, Simmons took the ball directly to the rim. He missed, but it was definitely a tone-setting type of play by Simmons. It made everything come a little easier for the Sixers as Simmons continued to go to the rim, looking for his own shot.

Of course Simmons took exception to the fans booing in Game 1, but everyone kissed and made up in the first quarter. After an excellent take and finish on Jarrett Allen, Simmons raised his arms up, urging the crowd to get louder.

They obliged.

He recorded his second career playoff triple-double with 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.

Also, for as poor as Simmons was offensively in Game 1, he did an outstanding job on D’Angelo Russell, holding him to 10 of 25 from the field. Game 2 wasn’t much kinder to Russell, who finished just 6 of 16. Simmons has flashed elite defensive ability at times this season and has been stellar through two games in the playoffs.

• Embiid was a little slow to get going. He didn’t attempt a field goal in his first seven minutes of action.

Then this happened …

It’s funny, Embiid seemed quiet in his 12 first-half minutes, but had 10 points and five boards. Even with an achy knee, he can shows signs of sheer brilliance. He moved around much better Monday night than he did Saturday afternoon.

He started the second half with a personal 7-0 run and had 13 points in the third. Brett Brown had to play the All-Star center only 20 minutes as he finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds.

• While Jimmy Butler was a beast and Embiid was still rounding into form in Game 1, there was legitimate concern over the play of Simmons, JJ Redick and Tobias Harris. All three surpassed their point totals from Saturday less than two minutes into the third quarter.

Redick has been in these situations before. While his playoff play has been up and down in his career, you know he’s a veteran and he ended the regular season on an absolute tear. He finished with 17 points on 7 of 12 from the field and 2 of 5 from three. He adjusted to the Nets overplaying him at the three-point line by taking — and making — more long twos.

It was good to see Harris finally get rolling. After Harris missed his first five shots, Brooklyn did him a huge favor in the third quarter. Harris was fouled taking a three and then Russell committed a clear-path foul on him. Harris made five straight free throws and it must have made the basket grow from a pinhole to an ocean. He had 12 of his 19 points in the third and finished 2 of 4 from three.

• If you were looking for Brown's adjustments, you got ‘em.

With James Ennis back in the lineup, Brown didn’t bring T.J. McConnell or Jonathon Simmons off the bench until garbage time. The move paid dividends immediately. Ennis played better defense on Caris LeVert on his first defensive possession than any Sixer did in Game 1. I wasn’t sure the impact Ennis would have in this series, but he gave the Sixers a real boost in 12 minutes Monday.

And speaking of the bench, how good has Boban Marjanovic been during the first two games of the series? Maranjovic had 14 points in 11 first-half minutes and ended up with 16 points and eight boards. He’s also held up OK on defense. Getting solid backup center minutes from him will be huge for the Sixers.

Mike Scott also had a bounce-back performance, hitting 5 of 7, including 3 of 5 from deep, for 15 points.

Brown cut his rotation down to eight guys, with Jonah Bolden getting two spot minutes in the first half. In Game 2, it worked out quite well.

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Oddsmakers set the betting odds on Sixers-Raptors series

Oddsmakers set the betting odds on Sixers-Raptors series

If the oddsmakers are right, we could be in for an exciting and long series between the Toronto Raptors and the Sixers. 

With both teams disposing of their first-round opponents in convincing fashion in the fifth game, the odds are set for a clash of Eastern Conference titans that could go the distance.

According to DraftKings, the Raptors are -200 favorites to win the series, meaning a $200 bet would return a total of $300. They have the Sixers listed at +150, meaning a $100 bet would return $250.

There are also odds available on DraftKings on the correct series score. The Raptors winning in seven games is the most likely outcome at +300. The second most likely outcome of the series is a Raptors win in five games, at +400, followed by a Sixers win in six, at +450.

The Sixers are now 20/1 to win the title, so a $100 bet would return a total of $2,100 for you to celebrate with as the Sixers parade down Broad Street.

Now, there are a few things to consider. First of all, there’s homecourt advantage. The Raptors have it and they were 32-9 at home this season. Typically, you’d then look at the head-to-head matchup for clues, but in this case, it feels irrelevant. 

The Raptors won the season series 3-1, but a deeper look would remind you that the Sixers' victory came against a Raptors team without their best player, Kawhi Leonard, and the three Raptors wins came against the Sixers before their trade for Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott.

Finally, it’s important to note that the Sixers have never, ever beaten Leonard, dating back 13 meetings over the last eight years.

So, if you like the Raptors, it seems logical to make the bet on DraftKings now before Game One, where they’re favored by five points, and if you like the Sixers, it would make sense to wait and make your wager on FanDuel. While the series odds are not out yet on FanDuel, the Sixers are 26/1 to win the title on there as opposed to 20/1 on DraftKings. You might be able to get slightly better odds on the Sixers on there once the series odds are posted.

Either way, we expect a physical, fiery series between two teams who made upgrades for this kind of opportunity to advance in the playoffs.

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Sixers-Raptors second-round NBA playoff series starts with Game 1 Saturday

Sixers-Raptors second-round NBA playoff series starts with Game 1 Saturday

We already knew the opponent and now we know when the series will begin.

After dispatching of the Brooklyn Nets in five games, the Sixers will take on the Raptors for Game 1 in Toronto on Saturday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. or 8 on TNT. 

The Sixers will play at 7:30 p.m. if the Spurs-Nuggets series goes to a Game 7 (Spurs-Nuggets would be at 10). If there's no Game 7 in that Spurs-Nuggets series, the Sixers will play at 8 p.m. on Saturday.

Down 3-2, the Spurs host the Nuggets in Game 6 on Thursday night at 8 p.m., so we'll know after that game what time the Sixers' game on Saturday will begin. 

Scotiabank Arena has been a house of horrors for the Sixers. They’ve lost 13 straight there. Their last win came on Nov. 10, 2012, with Lavoy Allen in the starting lineup. Kawhi Leonard has also never lost to the Sixers in his NBA career, going a perfect 13-0. It's fair to note that a lot of that damage was done during The Process and that Toronto has yet to see "Sixers 3.0" this season.

Games 1 and 2 will be at the Scotiabank Arena, before coming to the Wells Fargo Center for Games 3 and 4. Games 5 and 7 would be at Scoatiabank Arena and Game 6 would be at the Wells Fargo Center, if necessary. 

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