NEW YORK — Now, that was a playoff game.
After three games that weren’t very close on the scoreboard and didn’t boast much in the physicality department, Game 4 between the Sixers and Nets was a doozy.
From transcendent play to a fight that led to ejections to a few late-game heroics, the Sixers’ 112-108 win in Brooklyn Saturday afternoon had everything you could’ve wanted in a postseason basketball game (see observations).
Although nothing crazy had occurred, you could feel tension building with Jared Dudley. He’d called out Ben Simmons multiple times — which hasn’t worked out too well — and Nets coach Kenny Atkinson has used the veteran as an energy-type player off his bench. Atkinson opted to use Dudley in the starting lineup Saturday with explosive results.
With 7:42 left in the third quarter, Jarrett Allen went up for a shot that was contested by Joel Embiid. Dudley, who thought the contact was excessive, ran and pushed Embiid in the back. Jimmy Butler wasted little time in coming to the defense of his big man, shoving Dudley (see video).
When the dust settled, Embiid was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul, his second of the playoffs on Allen, and Butler and Dudley were both ejected. That’s a hell of a trade-off for the Nets, but it did fire up Embiid, who was brilliant on Saturday, recording 31 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and six blocks in 31 minutes.
I for sure fed off of that. The fact that he had my back and, like I said, I’m going to pay that fine. That was great to see. You know Mike [Scott] has kind of been doing that all season. I’m sure if he was on the court and then someone would’ve pushed me, he’s always tenacious and has our back. Tonight, it was Jimmy so it’s a great to see that. You play with guys that care about you, that have your back and I don’t have to do anything else but just go back and have their back and that’s by dominating and trying to get us a win.
Embiid is definitely right about Scott. Scott has come to the defense of his teammates on multiple occasions since coming over at the trade deadline from the Clippers. He’s made it known he’s not a man to be trifled with.
But in this game, Scott and Butler sort of traded roles. While it was Butler who stood up for Embiid, it was Scott who played hero in the fourth quarter. With just 19.7 seconds left and the Sixers trailing 108-107, Scott nailed a corner three off a broken play that put the team up for good.
Scott is a man of few words, but when he does speak, he’s candid and it’s usually entertaining. He described the melee in the third as “great basketball” and was short and sweet in describing his huge late-game trey.
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.
On the next possession, the Sixers smothered Allen down low as Ben Simmons ripped the ball out of the big man’s hands.
It was just another impressive example of the Sixers’ physical dominance over the Nets so far in this series.
“I thought as a team we had a physical play at the end where Ben ended up just kind of taking the ball and Tobias hit those free throws,” Brett Brown said. “Defensively, to hold that team to 17 fourth-quarter points in a game that’s clearly an important game for both of us. I thought our defense rose to another level in the fourth period when it mattered most.”
The Sixers went from dropping Game 1 to being on the brink of ending this thing in five games when the teams return to the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday night.
How can the Sixers pull off their fourth straight win and eliminate the Nets?
“Stay physical. Get them off the three. Get them uncomfortable,” Scott said. “Just make shots, play in front of that crowd and end it.”
The man doesn’t mess around and neither have the Sixers over the last three games.
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