As NBC Sports Philadelphia prepares to re-air it tonight (7 p.m.), we look back on Game 4 of Sixers-Nets in Brooklyn on April 20, 2019.
There was a fight. There was a superstar playing like a superstar. There was clutch shooting. There was also an all-time quote postgame.
Game 4 in Brooklyn had everything you could want from an NBA playoff game.
The Barclays Center didn’t seem like it was ready for postseason basketball last year. The media overflow was forced to watch the game in seats usually reserved for fans.
After three mostly uneventful games, likely nobody was ready for what was ahead in Game 4 of last year’s Sixers-Nets first-round playoff series.
If you’ll recall, it felt like you had a better chance of winning the Powerball than guessing Joel Embiid’s status correctly. The All-Star center was dealing with left knee tendinitis that caused him to play in just 10 of the last 24 games down the stretch.
He was doubtful in Game 1 and played. Questionable in Game 2 and played. Questionable in Game 3 and didn’t play. It became a routine to watch Embiid’s pregame warmup and attempt to guess if he’d play based on how he looked. By Game 4, we’d all given up guessing.
Jo took the floor for warmups ahead of Game 4, but he will still be a game-time decision. pic.twitter.com/HKeC2nH6tL— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 20, 2019
Coming into the contest, he was listed as doubtful … and played at an otherworldly level.
He played just 10 minutes in the first half but posted three blocks and was a plus-8 with the Sixers trailing by six at halftime. Brett Brown tried using Boban Marjanovic, Jonah Bolden and Greg Monroe as Embiid’s backup. It didn’t go well.
Then in the second half, Jared Dudley’s status as public enemy No. 1 in Philadelphia was cemented. Dudley, who made some inflammatory comments about Ben Simmons that appeared to fire the All-Star point guard up, was in the middle of things yet again.
Ben Simmons' face and reaction when asked about Jared Dudley's comment about him being an average player in the half court:— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 18, 2019
"That's coming from Jared Dudley." pic.twitter.com/IgDbNJ46vk
Young center Jarrett Allen had trouble with Embiid’s size and physicality in the series. With 7:42 remaining in the third, Embiid was called for a Flagrant 1 foul on Allen for the second time in the series. Dudley took exception and ran up and shoved Embiid from behind.
Then all hell broke loose.
Jimmy Butler stepped in and shoved Dudley as a brawl broke out. The melee got so intense that it spilled into the front row of the crowd. After the dust settled, Butler and Dudley were both ejected — a trade off the Nets won by a large margin. That set up Mike Scott’s late-game heroics.
"I'm just here to protect my big fella."— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 20, 2019
Jimmy and Joel's presser together is pure entertainment as the bromance is on full display. pic.twitter.com/gS373gZ8YV
But before that, the game became all about Embiid and the Sixers’ lockdown defense. Still trailing by six going into the fourth, Embiid was an absolute monster on both ends, scoring in the post and not letting Brooklyn get anything going. He finished with 31 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and six blocks. The only other player to put up that stat line in the postseason since blocks became an official stat is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
"You take 7-foot-2," Brown said postgame, "and you have that sort of dynamic personality and kind of the way you live your life and play basketball and you’re completely physical and highly competitive. It produces environments like that.
“As his coach, you kind of wouldn’t trade it for much. It’s a rare combination that he has with his skill and his personality and his sort of innate competitiveness.”
The Sixers allowed just 17 points in the fourth quarter but still found themselves down one with 25 seconds left. Scott, who found himself closing out the game with Butler back in the locker room, took on Butler’s role as the Sixers’ closer. On a broken play, Embiid found Scott in the corner who banged home a three to put the Sixers up two with 19.7 second left.
That also gave us a classic Mike Scott quote:
My job was just to space the floor and be a decoy. Tobias [Harris] tried to get it to Jo and I think the pass got deflected. Jo made a hell of a hustle play, saw me in the corner … cashed out.
Ben Simmons, who was a monster defensively and tormented All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell throughout the entire series, ripped the ball out of Allen’s hands with 4.8 seconds left. Harris, who poured in 24 points, then made two free throws to seal a 112-108 victory.
This was the type of win that propels a team to go on a run. A couple nights later at the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers smothered the Nets from the opening tip to close out the series and had the look of a team ready to go on a roll.
And they may have if not for a few — four to be exact — unlucky bounces.
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