Sixers avoid another near-disaster with comeback

Sixers avoid another near-disaster with comeback


The Sixers got back on track at the Wells Fargo Center with a 120-116 down-to-the-wire win Friday over the Nets. They had to climb out of a 13-point deficit and play disciplined down the stretch to overcome the Nets, who have proved pesky this season. 

The Sixers moved up to 38-30 with the victory while the Nets fell to 22-48.

• Fans sang “Happy Birthday” to Joel Embiid while he shot free throws and then got creative with a new chant: “E-M-B-I-I-D Embiid” to the tune of “E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles.” Embiid posted 24 points, a career-high 19 rebounds, four assists and two blocks in spite of shooting 6 for 23 from the field. He was a perfect 11 of 11 from the free throw line.

• A timeline for determining Markelle Fultz’s availability still has not been set, Brett Brown said pregame. 

“I think at some point soon a decision is going to have to be made so that we can progress forward,” Brown said. “But sincerely, there is nothing going on right now that you all don’t know that I know.”

When asked if he thinks Fultz will play this season, Brown replied, “I truly don’t know.” 

• Former Sixers Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas returned to the Wells Fargo Center for the first time since being traded to the Nets in December. Okafor was greeted with some boos when he checked in, and the jeers got louder when he touched the ball. Okafor scored 10 points with three boards in 13 minutes.

Okafor said it was “weird” being in the visitors’ locker room and spending the night in a hotel. He actually got lost finding his way through a different arena entrance. 

“Being here where my NBA career basically started, it feels good to be back and see some familiar faces,” he said before the game. 

• Justin Anderson (11 points) got playing time after falling out of the rotation as of late. He dropped nine points in the first quarter off a trio of threes. More importantly, Anderson played tough defense with Embiid on Spencer Dinwiddie with 21 seconds left in regulation to maintain the Sixers’ lead. 

• Ben Simmons neared another triple-double (21 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds), which is becoming a common occurrence. Dario Saric (nine points) failed to score in double digits for only the second time since the beginning of December. 

• D’Angelo Russell, who averaged 24 points in the first two games against the Sixers, scored only eight points (3 for 14 from the field). The Nets were led by 21 points and 10 rebounds from Chester, Pa., native Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. 

• Hall of Famer Allen Iverson stood courtside to watch the game go down to the wire. Check out the whole video to see how he addressed the crowd. 

• Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman was also in attendance. 

Predictions for Game 4 of Sixers vs. Nets playoff series

Predictions for Game 4 of Sixers vs. Nets playoff series

After a 131-115 win in Brooklyn on Thursday night, the Sixers can come home a game away from advancing to the second round.

Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick give their predictions for Game 4: 

With Joel Embiid listed as doubtful … I actually have no clue what that means. He was doubtful in Game 1, but played. He was questionable in Game 2 and played. He was questionable and said his knee was getting better before Game 3, but didn’t play.

If the Sixers are looking to get Embiid rest, they’re playing a dangerous game. If Embiid is available, even if not at 100 percent, it would make more sense to play him, win Game 4 and then rest him for Game 5. When you start getting into these scenarios at all it seems dicey.

The good news for the Sixers is that they’ve proven they can beat the Nets without their All-Star center. Ben Simmons was the best player on the floor Thursday night while Tobias Harris appears to have gotten his swagger back. Brooklyn looked like it had never seen the JJ Redick dribble handoff action before, as the Sixers repeatedly went to that well.

The biggest reason the Sixers appear to be OK without Embiid is the steady play of Boban Marjanovic. The hulking center has been the team’s most consistent player in the series. You expect his efficient offense (14.3 points in 17.3 minutes a game while shooting 62 percent) but his defense was a major concern coming into this series. He’s more than stepped up to the challenge of being able to affect shots at the rim from the Nets’ dangerous guard trio.

The proposition of starting Greg Monroe isn’t great, but if the veteran big can just be a little better than he was in Game 3, it could go a long way.

With or without Embiid for Game 4, the Sixers come back to the Wells Fargo Center with a chance to punch their ticket to the second round.

The Sixers’ offense dictated the action in Game 3, playing at a pace which Nets coach Kenny Atkinson admitted was beyond his team’s comfort level. The ability of Simmons, Jimmy Butler and Harris to push the ball up the floor has allowed the Sixers to play at a fast tempo without an exorbitant number of turnovers. 

In theory, the idea of playing zone to force the Sixers to deviate from their favored patterns and actions is sensible for the Nets, but it doesn’t matter much if the Sixers don’t give Brooklyn’s defense time to set up. Using a zone also doesn’t seem like the smartest idea for the Nets when Harris (6 for 6 from three-point range in Game 3) and Redick (5 for 9) are on the floor.

Joe Harris, 0 for 6 from three-point territory in the last two games, is due for a big game. So too is Butler, limited to 19 points total in Games 2 and 3. I expect Butler to take control at the point in the fourth quarter and help the Sixers seal another win at Barclays Center.

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Joel Embiid listed as doubtful for Sixers-Nets Game 4

Joel Embiid listed as doubtful for Sixers-Nets Game 4

Joel Embiid is listed as doubtful with left knee soreness on the NBA’s official injury report for Game 4 of the Sixers’ first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets.

He missed Game 3 in Brooklyn, a 131-115 Sixers’ win. About an hour before tip-off, Embiid discussed his knee pain, which he described as "tendinitis," saying he feels he’s getting better “slowly but surely" (see story). 

That said, it sounds like Embiid’s progress is non-linear and difficult for him to predict.

“At the end of the day, what cures it is just loading,” he said. “You gotta load in the right way. Can’t do too much and then also can’t sit out and do nothing. It’s hard to manage, but gotta do it. Gotta push through the pain and see where it goes.”

Embiid began practice Friday by firing a few three-pointers in his slippers.

He then laced up his sneakers and went through an individualized workout.

Brown said early Friday afternoon that his holistic “gut feel” Thursday was that Embiid would not play. He said he didn’t yet have a sense for Embiid’s Game 4 availability. 

Though the Sixers’ athlete care team is closely monitoring Embiid’s “loading,” all the factors behind the decision of whether he plays remain nebulous. Brett Brown has characterized that choice as being dictated both by how Embiid feels and the recommendation of the medical staff.

The center tandem of Greg Monroe and Boban Marjanovic combined for 23 points and 21 rebounds Thursday night. Marjanovic has been impressive in this series and quite possibly the Sixers’ most consistent player (see story). 

While he’s officially doubtful, it’s still very possible Embiid plays in Game 4. He went from being doubtful for Game 1 to playing and posting 22 points and 15 rebounds in the Sixers’ 111-102 loss.

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