76ers

A look back at a Sixers playoff game that had everything

A look back at a Sixers playoff game that had everything

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.

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.

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.

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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NBA owners reportedly expected to approve plan for return

NBA owners reportedly expected to approve plan for return

Updated, Wednesday, 3 p.m.

According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, NBA commissioner Adam Silver intends to propose a 22-team plan to resume the 2019-20 season at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the NBA's Board of Governors has a call at 12:30 p.m. ET Thursday and is expected to approve Silver's plan. 

Silver is targeting a date of July 31 to resume play, per Charania. The season has been suspended since March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

What exactly would a 22-team return look like? Each team would play eight regular-season games to determine playoff seeding, and the six teams outside of those in a playoff position at the moment would be the Pelicans, Trail Blazers, Suns, Kings, Spurs and Wizards, Wojnarowski reported.

According to Yahoo Sports' Vince Goodwill, teams would continue with their schedule as originally planned. If a team is slated to play one of the eight teams not included, it would move on to the next game on its schedule. The Sixers had a relatively easy remaining schedule, so the elimination of non-contending teams would be a slight negative for them. They had a stretch of games set for March 19-26 against Charlotte, Atlanta, Minnesota and Chicago.

Here's what their remaining schedule could look like, based on Goodwill's reporting:

Vs. Indiana 
Vs. Washington
Vs. Toronto 
Vs. Phoenix 
Vs. Portland 
Vs. Houston
At Washington
Vs. Orlando 

At 39-26, the Sixers are currently the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. While they're 8.5 games ahead of the Nets, the seventh seed, the Sixers could have an opportunity to rise in the standings. The final regular-season games could also impact the Sixers in the NBA draft. The team owns Oklahoma City's first-round pick, but that selection is top-20 protected, meaning it won't convey if the Thunder don't finish with one of the league's 10 best records.

There would be a play-in tournament if the ninth seed is within four games of the eighth seed at the end of the regular season, Charania reported. If that's not the case, the eight seed would go straight to the playoffs. That won't apply to the Sixers, since they're not on the playoff bubble.

Still, the play-in tournament might impact the probability of early upsets, one way or another. It remains to be seen whether a team performing well in the play-in tournament would carry over to the playoffs, or whether it would be adversely impacted by the extra games played. Both factors could have an influence. 

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Sixers' Tobias Harris delivers strong message about racism, police brutality in personal essay

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Sixers' Tobias Harris delivers strong message about racism, police brutality in personal essay

In an essay published Wednesday morning in The Players’ Tribune, Tobias Harris delivered a strong message about racism and police brutality in America while also providing insight into how his perceptions about race have been shaped. 

The piece is headlined, “Y’all Hear Us, But You Ain’t Listening.” Harris begins by framing the conversation about the death of 46-year-old black man George Floyd, who was killed last week in police custody when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, while the three other officers on the scene were fired but haven’t been charged.

“But if we gon’ talk about what happened to George Floyd,” Harris writes, “there needs to be a baseline acknowledgement of the reality: A white police officer killed an unarmed black man, and he was able to do it in broad daylight, with three other cops watching, because of the color of his skin.

“And don’t reply to me with, ‘Oh, but this person did this.’ Don’t try and make excuses, or say this isn’t about race. In a lot of my conversations with white people lately, I’m getting that statement over and over again: ‘Let’s stop making this about race.’” 

Harris draws a sharp juxtaposition between President Donald Trump’s characterization of protestors against stay-at-home orders in place because of the coronavirus pandemic and Trump's language about protestors who have marched around the country in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. 

Last month, armed men took over the steps of Michigan’s capitol building. To protest the QUARANTINE.

And what did the President call them?

'Good people.'

But we go out and protest that another black life has been taken senselessly, and we’re 'THUGS.'

Come on.

This is why black Americans are angry.

Harris writes that “the killing of Trayvon Martin was a turning point for me.” 

“When he was killed, all because he looked ‘suspicious’ for wearing a black hoodie at night in his own neighborhood, I realized that that could have been my brother,” he writes. “Once you really sit with that, it’s a really scary feeling. I had to get out of my own NBA bubble, and understand that there’s a different world out there. Not everybody can get in a nice car every day, drive to work, come home, work out, and be O.K. People go through different s---. Every. Single. Day. I had to come to grips with that.”

He later reflects on the obligation he feels to speak on behalf of black people who don’t play in the NBA or have celebrity status and cites the late Muhammad Ali as an inspiration.

The way I look at it? If people in my community are oppressed, then so am I. Shout out to Muhammad Ali, one of the biggest role models in my life, for showing the way. He was never scared to take a stand against INJUSTICE.

"I’ve also had to get uncomfortable in knowing who I am — knowing that, yeah, I made it to the NBA, and that’s changed some things for me in terms of how I’m treated. I don’t have it the same as the next person. I’ve come to grips with the fact that yes, I’m black, but that dude that’s getting pulled over by a cop in his car, he don’t have the luxury of that officer recognizing him.

"That’s the problem. The difference between a cop recognizing you or not shouldn’t be life or death. 

Harris says he’s glad he protested on Saturday in Philadelphia after regretting a missed opportunity to march in Orlando in 2013, about a year after Martin’s death.

“On Saturday in Philly, it was about a togetherness of people pushing out a message. And that message was really about respect. It was about people respecting others, and understanding their hurt and their pain.”

Another interesting topic Harris covers is the deficiencies he sees in what kids are taught about black history, and his individual efforts to fill in knowledge gaps. He also covers his own work mentoring young people in the Philadelphia area and the disparities he’s observed “between a school in North Philly out here, and a school in the Main Line of Lower Merion.”

The entire piece is worth a read. 

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