Well, that wasn’t the start you were looking for.
Even with Joel Embiid in the lineup and playoff Jimmy Butler activated, the Sixers dropped Game 1 to the Brooklyn Nets, 111-102, at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday.
After all the drama leading up to Saturday’s game about his status, Embiid played and just didn’t look like himself for much of the contest. Whether it was rust or pain, we didn’t see the best version of the All-Star center.
Butler’s heroics weren’t enough as the Sixers shot poorly from three and failed to contain Brooklyn’s dangerous guards. They also got next to nothing from the other three starters. The crowd booed lustily on several occasions.
The Nets took a 1-0 lead as the series will resume Monday night for Game 2 in Philadelphia.
Here are observations from the loss:
• I had a feeling the Jimmy Butler we saw in the regular season would not be the same one we saw in the playoffs. Butler was not messing around in this one.
Defensively, he had an impressive block on D’Angelo Russell and the youngster looked outmatched against him.
He was just as aggressive offensively, drawing Jarrett Allen’s third foul and lived at the line, hitting 10 of 12 in the first half. The Butler that everyone complained deferred too much was nowhere to be found as Butler poured in a game-high 23 points before halftime.
He also hit this shot to close out the first half, which looked awfully familiar.
For much of the game, it felt like Butler was the Sixers’ only reliable source of offense. He finished with 36 points.
• Embiid played, he just didn’t look right. He was just 1 of 9 from the field and played just 10 minutes in the first half. He was able to get to the line, hitting 9 of 11. “M-V-P” and “Trust the Process” chants were started for Embiid during his free throws.
He got off to a better start in the second, but ultimately couldn’t help the Sixers overcome their struggles. It’s amazing that he still managed to put up 22 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks.
• It was an encouraging start by the Sixers defensively. They defended the pick-and-roll against Brooklyn’s dangerous guards about as well as they have all season. While Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie got off to slow starts, Caris LeVert and the Nets’ red-hot three-point shooting got them out in front.
Overall, that trio didn’t shoot particularly well. Russell went 10 of 25, Dinwiddie went 6 of 14 and LeVert finished 8 of 18.
Brooklyn hit 8 of 15 from three in the first half while the Sixers missed their first 11 threes before Mike Scott hit one midway through the second. They finished just 3 of 25 from beyond.
• JJ Redick and T.J. McConnell both really struggled on the perimeter defensively. Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, much like Brad Stevens of the Celtics a year ago, is looking exploit the two smaller and not as athletic guards. Redick picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the third quarter.
It’ll be up to Brett Brown to make an adjustment in Game 2.
• While Butler was a beast and Embiid was gutting it out, the Sixers needed way more from the other three starters.
With Redick, you know what you’re getting. He’s going to struggle on defense — he eventually fouled out of this one — but he makes the offense so much better with his shot-making ability and the way he moves without the ball. Unfortunately, his shooting to close out the season didn’t carry over into Game 1.
With Tobias Harris, his cold shooting unfortunately did carry over. Since his 32-point performance — and arguably his best game as a Sixer — in Oklahoma City, Harris has struggled mightily. In 19 games to close out the regular season, Harris shot just 27 percent from three. He went 2 of 6 for four points in this one. His regular-season low was six.
With Ben Simmons, this is a troubling pattern in the playoffs. Teams just clog the paint and dare him to shoot. He was also bad from the line, hitting just 1 of 5. He elicited boos when he missed a pair in the fourth quarter.
• Boban Marjanovic got the first crack at being Embiid’s backup and the veteran big man was up for the challenge. He gave the Sixers solid minutes on both ends of the floor. It’s not surprising to see the offensive numbers (13 points on 5 of 7), but he was better than anticipated defensively. Because he’s such a massive human, he struggles to move his feet, but he was active in this one and used his size well to affect shots.
Jonathon Simmons saw the wing minutes off the bench ahead of rookie Zhaire Smith. You got what you expected out of Simmons. He was solid defensively, but hurt them offensively.
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