As an observer, it was difficult to process what you were watching. 14-0. 20-2. 30-6.
The Nets missed their first eight field goal attempts. Joel Embiid had 10 points before Brooklyn had any. In their last chance to preserve their season, the Nets had their lowest first-quarter scoring output of the year — 15.
None of the numbers made sense, and it felt like nobody at Wells Fargo Center could quite believe what was happening besides the Sixers’ players.
They understood this was a possibility, JJ Redick said after their 122-100 win to advance to a second-round playoff matchup against the Raptors (see observations).
We had talked about how a team’s mindset down 3-1, 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 Sixers put the Nets away so early there wasn’t much of the exultation, relief or sense of profound fatigue that might typically correspond with winning a a playoff series — especially one that featured various skirmishes, trash talk and fines.
Joel Embiid’s analysis was understated.
“Tonight was a good game,” he said. “If we're as focused as we were tonight, then we got a pretty good chance to accomplish what we want. After the type of game like tonight, you go back and watch the tape and see what worked out and what didn't. Obviously we've got to lower our turnovers (19), but other than that I thought our defense was great.”
With the exception of Game 1, the Sixers ultimately did what they were supposed to do against the Nets. It’s exciting to move on to the second round, sure, but it isn’t foreign or unexpected.
After winning the first playoff series of his eight-year NBA career, Tobias Harris acknowledged he’s likely never been involved in a game that began the way Tuesday night’s did.
“Probably not,” Harris said. “I think our start really dictated the whole pace of the game. We said it after last game — we get out to a good start, really kill their momentum, kill their vibe all around. I thought the start to this game was impactful, was powerful for us. When we talk about imposing our will, that was a sound example of that.”
Taking a 24-point lead in the first quarter, depleting an opposition of whatever energy they might have had left, matching playoff records — none of those things should be easy to accomplish against the Raptors.
The expectations will change in that series as well, with the Sixers no longer assuming the role of favorites. The boxing analogies Redick employs might need to shift.
The Sixers’ reaction to Tuesday night’s obliteration of the Nets, though, indicates that they don’t feel much of anything is beyond their capabilities.
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