Kyrie Irving

Sixers vs. Nets: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers vs. Nets: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

The Sixers (25-16) last lost at the Wells Fargo Center on Dec. 20. Since then, they’ve gone 1-6 on the road.

Wednesday night, they’re home to face the 18-21 Brooklyn Nets.

Here are the essentials:

When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center 
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Irving sharp since his return 

Kyrie Irving is back after missing 26 games because of a right shoulder injury, and he’s totaled 53 points on 22 for 30 shooting (73.3 percent) and 15 assists in the two games since his return.

Without Irving, the Nets beat the Sixers by 20 points on Dec. 15 in Brooklyn, led by Spencer Dinwiddie’s 24 points. Joel Embiid was out that game because of an upper respiratory infection. He’s now sidelined after undergoing surgery Friday for a torn ligament in his left hand.

A strategic note to watch from that last meeting is Brooklyn played off Ben Simmons to an extreme, sometimes guarding him below the foul line while he was behind the arc. Simmons finished with 20 points, five rebounds and three assists. 

Halfway there 

Below are the Sixers’ records from the first 41 games over the past four seasons:

2016-17: 15-26
2017-18: 21-20
2018-19: 27-14
2019-20: 25-16

They of course had a 16-game winning streak to end the 2017-18 season, which enabled them to earn 52 wins and the No. 3 seed in the East. The February additions of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova were key in that run.

While this year’s team begins the second half with a better record than the 2017-18 team, it’s looking more and more like they’ll need that kind of impactful external help. They’re sixth in the Eastern Conference, 10.5 games behind the Bucks and 3.5 games behind the No. 2 seed Celtics. 

It’s hard to win like that … 

In their losses to the Mavs and Pacers, the Sixers shot 15 of 70 (21.4 percent) from three-point range. While they actually led both games by nine at halftime, it’s very difficult to win in the modern NBA with shooting performances that abysmal.

The Sixers also put themselves in a difficult spot by allowing Indiana and Dallas to attempt a combined 58 foul shots and taking just 29. They’re 24th this season in free throw attempts per game (21.6) and 20th in foul shots conceded (24.2). 

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Sixers at Nets: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers at Nets: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Updated: 5:02 p.m.

The 20-7 Sixers, winners of five in a row and 13 of their last 15, will be shorthanded for Sunday night's game against the 13-12 Nets.

Below are the essentials:

When: 6 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 5:45 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center 
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia 
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

As 1 big returns, another is out

Joel Embiid is out because of an upper respiratory illness, while Al Horford will play. The veteran big has been dealing with left knee soreness and left hamstring tightness that’s caused him to miss the past two games.

Embiid played 31 minutes Friday vs. the Pelicans, right around his season average, and has missed five of the Sixers’ first 27 games because of injuries, load management and a two-game suspension for an Oct. 30 fight with the Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns. The Sixers have a 3-2 record without Embiid. 

Norvel Pelle would seem well positioned to again receive meaningful minutes. The 26-year-old was Embiid’s main backup Friday and had a real impact in his 12 minutes (see story). 

‘Honestly, I liked that they fouled’ 

The final few minutes of the Sixers’ win over the Pelicans were laborious, and one reason why is that New Orleans had early success with intentionally fouling Ben Simmons. The Australian missed three of his first four attempts after the Pelicans turned to the “Hack-a-Simmons” strategy.

“My belief is he's going to have to go through some of that to get where we want to deliver him,” Brett Brown said. 

Simmons, who’s shooting 58.3 percent on free throws this year, made his final four foul shots vs. New Orleans. When the Sixers hold a lead late in the game, it’s an approach they very well may continue to see.

“Honestly, I liked that they fouled,” Tobias Harris said. "I think it’s good in these type of situations for him to get used to that, because come playoff time if a team decides to do that, we can’t afford to take him out of the game. ... If teams decide to do that he’ll be confident enough to be able to knock those shots down and we’ll need that, especially when we’re talking long term, down the road.” 

Not satisfied 

Though the Sixers are now the only NBA team that’s undefeated at home, they were far from thrilled after beating the Pelicans. 

Harris said he thought there was “a little bit of contentment.”

Embiid acknowledged the team wasn’t as engaged as it had been Thursday in Boston.

“I think we should bring the same intensity every game,” he said. “We didn’t do that tonight. Last night you could tell we were more focused than tonight. It happens — back-to-back, guys are tired. But you’ve still gotta take care of business, and we got that win.”

The Sixers’ lapses in effort and defensive execution didn’t cost them, in part because they only turned it over nine times. It also helped that Simmons, Harris and Embiid all scored 20 or more points as teammates in the same game for the first time

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Kevin Durant, Donovan McNabb exchange jabs on Twitter over Kyrie Irving

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USA Today Images

Kevin Durant, Donovan McNabb exchange jabs on Twitter over Kyrie Irving

Kevin Durant and Donovan McNabb are chirping each other on Twitter.

What a time to be alive.

There’s a little bit of drama with Kyrie Irving and the Nets right now.

Durant, who is expected to miss the season as he recovers from an Achilles injury, doesn’t seem too worried about his new teammate — even after McNabb decided to give his take on the situation.

The former Eagles quarterback tweeted at Durant and Irving. Give credit to No. 5 there, he’s not trying to hide his opinion from the NBA stars.

Durant, however, has never shied away from firing back at criticism on Twitter.

He had a nice response for McNabb.

That’s some tone right there.

“Relax mcnabb.”

Using the last name was an interesting move by Durant but it added some juice.

Hopefully that’s the end of the Twitter jabs between Durant and McNabb.

Then again, it’s 2019. Social media will never relax.

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