76ers

The start of Sixers-Nets Game 5 didn't make sense as you were watching it

The start of Sixers-Nets Game 5 didn't make sense as you were watching it

As NBC Sports Philadelphia prepares to re-air it tonight (7 p.m.), we look back on Game 5 of Sixers-Nets at Wells Fargo Center on April 23, 2019.

Joel Embiid had 10 points, Jimmy Butler had four and the Brooklyn Nets had zero.

When you’re watching a game, you’ll often have small notes — tidbits for future reference, interesting matchups or schemes, impressions in the moment. 

For Game 5 of the first-round playoff series between the Sixers and Nets last year, you kept returning to the score. 14-0. 25-3. 30-6. They’re the kind of numbers that don’t make sense, especially in a playoff elimination game, so you write them down hoping that will somehow help. The Sixers led by 29 points after two quarters, their largest playoff halftime lead ever.  

Looking back, there were logical explanations. The Sixers had won Game 3 without Embiid on the strength of big performances from Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris. They then took a Game 4 that was about as dramatic and intense as a first-round playoff game can be. Brooklyn was vulnerable, the Sixers’ defense was locked in and Embiid was coming off an incredible performance. 

“We had talked about how a team’s mindset down 3-1,” JJ Redick said, “if you can take their heart early, you might have a chance to put them away, deliver the knockout punch, all the boxing analogies I can come up with.

“I have some dark analogies, but I shared those with the team. I don’t want to share them with you guys, but they’re dark. But yeah, you gotta put people away.”

The game was over very early, with no Sixer playing more than 27 minutes and Embiid only needing to spend 20 on his troublesome left knee. There was a lot of time to consider what was next, and to wonder what the Sixers could accomplish if they put it all together consistently — though that reflection was interrupted with less than two minutes left by an altercation that resulted in ejections for Jonah Bolden, Greg Monroe, Rodions Kurucs and Dzanan Musa. 

The Sixers had been on a search for identity and continuity that sometimes felt futile since trading in February for Tobias Harris, Mike Scott and Boban Marjanovic. Their first-choice starting five only played 10 regular-season games together. With the sample size so small, any time they had together felt worthy of deep analysis. Was Simmons having enough of an offensive impact in the “dunker spot?” How was the Butler-Embiid pick-and-roll coming along? Where did Harris fit in?

In the first quarter of Game 5, there wasn’t an opportunity to ask any of those questions. The defense was physical, focused and discouraging, and the lead kept growing and growing. We may sometimes overrate body language in pro sports, looking for signs of weakness that don’t exist, but the Nets just didn’t have the confidence they’d maintained through most of the series. D’Angelo Russell was tossing up contested jumpers because he knew it might be the best shot available that possession against Simmons, not because he believed he would make them. Russell ended up shooting 3 for 16 in the game, 35.9 percent in the series. 

Everyone understood the second round against the Raptors would be more of a challenge. Toronto had won 58 regular-season games and four straight to clinch their first-round series against the Magic, Marc Gasol was a tougher matchup for Embiid than Jarrett Allen or the Nets’ zone defense, and Kawhi Leonard was waiting. 

Those were concerns for another day. That night, the Sixers were pleased to be moving on and aware of just how well they’d opened the game, but not overjoyed. 

“I thought the start to this game was impactful, was powerful for us,” Harris said. “When we talk about imposing our will, that was a sound example of that.”

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Buddy Hield's Instagram comment adds fuel to Sixers trade rumblings

Buddy Hield's Instagram comment adds fuel to Sixers trade rumblings

NBA players know their social media activity is monitored around the clock, so any likes, comments, or follows that reach the public are noteworthy.

Which is why one Buddy Hield Instagram comment has Sixers fans on high alert.

On Wednesday night, Hield posted a fairly normal social distancing Instagram post for an NBA player, of him working out. Nothing too crazy... until a Philly-area Instagram user with the handle @1kevaan dropped a "Trust the Process" in the comments, and Hield actually responded:

Now, it's no secret that Trust the Process is a Sixers rallying cry. After years of ignoring the phrase during the tanking years, even the team embraced the slogan, and allowed Embiid to introduce himself as "The Process" before games.

So Hield - a 27-year-old digital savvy basketball player who started playing in the NBA right around the same time "Trust the Process" reached the masses - not knowing what the phrase means is unlikely.

It's possible that Hield didn't think to connect the phrase to the Sixers while typing his response. It's equally possible that he did, because Hield's Instagram activity earlier this season pointed fans towards the idea of a Hield-to-Philly move in the first place.

Hield liked an Instagram post posing the idea of a Hield-for-Al Horford swap back in February, and hasn't removed the like in the month-plus since, which at least suggests that it wasn't inadvertent:

Hield signed a four-year extension with Sacramento back in October, but the Kings regressed in their first year under head coach Luke Walton, and The Athletic reported in February that Hield, unhappy with his role, might be eyeing a move.

In terms of contract length and salary hit, the Hield and Horford deals are strikingly similar, and Hield's game would be an instant improvement for the Sixers' offensive spacing: he's a two-guard who shoots a career 41.1 percent from deep, and can create his own shot. Plus, he's substantially younger than Horford.

Will the move happen? If the Kings deem their relationship with Hield unfixable, it's possible. Horford hasn't fit well in Philly, but he's still a savvy veteran with a good track record. And Hield would certainly check the boxes for the Sixers' front office.

We'll see!

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Sixers broadcaster Marc Zumoff calls a day in the life of guy stuck at home

Sixers broadcaster Marc Zumoff calls a day in the life of guy stuck at home

The city of Philadelphia absolutely wishes we were currently watching the Sixers right now in the middle of a championship run.

Alas, live games are on hold for the time being, so there's a Marc Zumoff-sized void in our lives.

But given all of the extra free time broadcasters and media personalities have lately, Marc Farzetta was able to create the dream of longtime Sixers play-by-play man Zumoff calling his daily life at home.

"Farzetta rises from his slumber!" Zumoff begins as Farzetta gets out of bed. "Farzetta scoops, packs, and sips. Yes!" Zoo continues as Farzy makes his daily espresso.

Not only is Zoo doing the play-by-play, but he passed it over to his broadcast partners Alaa Abdelnaby and Serena Winters for the assist at one point.

The execution is as crisp as a Ben Simmons alley-oop to Joel Embiid. Hopefully we'll get plenty more Zoo, Alaa and Serena in our lives sometime soon.