Brett Brown hasn’t shied away from discussing how and why the Nets are a difficult matchup for the Sixers.
Ahead of Game 1 of the Sixers’ series today against Brooklyn (2:30 p.m./NBCSP), let’s look at the film to scout what specifically the Nets do well and where the Sixers should have advantages.
Russell, Dinwiddie and the pick-and-roll
D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie do an excellent job of identifying favorable matchups and attacking them.
Russell was far too quick for JJ Redick on this play from Dec. 12, and he floated it perfectly over Joel Embiid.
After Jarrett Allen’s screen, the Sixers switched Mike Muscala on to Dinwiddie on the play below from Nov. 25. Dinwiddie is too explosive to be contained by big men, and he knows it.
Many of the Sixers’ pick-and-roll issues against the Nets stemmed simply from Russell or Dinwiddie beating their defender on the initial move and placing the Sixers in poor positions.
Russell uses his body well to shield off his man once he slides past him.
After T.J. McConnell again gets caught on top of the screen, Embiid half-commits to Dinwiddie here, seemingly unsure whether to switch, hedge or drop back, and Dinwiddie capitalizes on the indecision with a lob to Allen.
Given how McConnell has struggled to handle Dinwiddie, who has averaged 23.8 points and 5.5 assists against the Sixers this season, a more agile perimeter defender who doesn’t frequently fall behind on the first step and can fight over screens would be a better option. It’s worth giving rookie Zhaire Smith a chance on Dinwiddie.
The Sixers also can’t afford to neglect all the things the Nets do surrounding the basic pick-and-roll. Furkan Korkmaz was fixated on the pick-and-roll between Russell and Ed Davis on the play below, which caused Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s down screen on the opposite wing to catch him off guard. Harris, the NBA’s leader in three-point percentage (47.4), can’t be left open.
And Harris’ offensive skill set isn’t limited to catch and shoot. Here, he makes an “Iverson cut” from the right wing to the left wing over screens from Hollis-Jefferson and Allen, then accelerates on a drive baseline past Simmons.
The unguardable Embiid
The Nets are not alone in this respect, but they don't have any defenders capable of guarding Embiid one-on-one.
Allen is a good rim protector with some high-profile blocks on his résumé this season, but Embiid has the skills to dominate him in the post.
Davis, though a prolific rebounder, doesn’t have the strength to handle Embiid.
Embiid scored 32 or more points in three of four regular-season games against the Nets. He’ll likely face a good amount of double teams in this series, meaning he’ll need to curb his occasional instinct to dribble in one direction and then spin back into the help defender.
Another way the Nets might look to avoid defending Embiid one-on-one is through playing a 2-3 zone, which they did for stretches in the second and third quarters of the Sixers’ 123-110 win on March 28.
The Sixers countered the zone with a basic, effective approach, placing two men on the wings, one man sliding from elbow to elbow, and one sliding from short corner to short corner.
They got plenty of good shots when they found the “soft spot” in the zone. Hollis-Jefferson and DeMarre Carroll have a moment of hesitation on the play below when Boban Marjanovic receives the ball at the foul line, uncertain who should pick up Marjanovic and who should take Simmons on the right block. Marjanovic realizes Redick is open because of their brief confusion.
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