Brooklyn Goes into Philadelphia and Steals Game 1

The Brooklyn Nets are up 1-0 on the Philadelphia 76ers. I don’t know that anyone saw this coming. But let’s get right into it.

By far, the single biggest mismatch of this series is Joel Embiid against the Nets’ defense. Brooklyn simply has no answer for Embiid. Jarrett Allen isn’t strong enough to guard him one on one. In fact, no one on the Nets has the strength to withstand Embiid’s physicality. We saw this right from the start, where Embiid was able to draw several quick fouls on Allen and get himself on the board with points.

On paper, the four best players in this series all play for the same team, and that team isn’t Brooklyn. It’s not entirely clear who Brooklyn’s best player is, but Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris are all better.

Yet here we are. The Nets weathered a dreadful first half performance from D’Angelo Russell to head into halftime up eight. Brooklyn’s early game plan very clearly was to attach with a Russell pick n’ roll nearly every possession. Five of their first six possessions were in fact a Russell pick n’ roll. With Embiid’s reluctance to leave the paint, this allows for Russell to take all the mid-range shots he wants. He just kept missing.

The Nets accomplished their halftime lead by hitting 8 of their 11 total threes in the first half. They got multiple, ultra important bench contributions. Embiid went into the locker room early for knee treatment, as he wasn’t declared cleared to play until seven minutes before tip off.

But Brooklyn won this game from distance. For the game, each time shot in the low 40’s from the field and hit a comparable amount of free throws. The Nets hit 11 threes, going 42.3% from beyond the arc as a team, while the 6ers bricked their way to a 3/25 shooting performance from deep.


1. Brooklyn Bench Mob

Four different Nets bench players received at least 23 minutes in this one, with another, Treveon Graham, getting 17. Allen and Rodions Kurucs seem to either not have the trust of coach Atkinson for this situation, or Atkinson doesn’t think they can provide a positive impact in this series. Perhaps those are one in the same.

Regardless, Brooklyn received contributions from their bench that pushed them over the top. Caris LeVert had 23 points and hit all of his threes and free throws (seven total shots). Spencer Dinwiddie chipped in 18 points, while rebounding god Ed Davis added 12 points and 16 rebounds.

Locker room leader and grit extraordinaire Jared Dudley logged 28 minutes. His box score stats aren’t flashy, but he just does stuff like this.

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And yes, he hit the free throws.

While you’re here, you can admire this touch pass from Dudley.

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In total, the Nets’ bench scored 59 points. That is 77.6% of what the Philadelphia’s starters totaled in Game 1.

2. Defensive Struggles

It’s been well chronicled in this space how much Brooklyn struggles defending athleticism. While Simmons was kept in check, Embiid and Butler were much more difficult to handle.

Embiid wasn’t great from the floor, going 5/15 overall and 0/5 from three, but he ended up with 22 points and 15 rebounds in large part due to his ability to get to the line. As stated above, the Nets have no one on the roster that can handle Embiid’s physicality, and it showed in this one as he took 18 free throw attempts. By the 8:47 mark of the first quarter Embiid had already attempted seven free throws.

Butler had a more all around successful game, going 11/22 from the field on his way to notching 36 points and nine rebounds. But again, Brooklyn had no answer when Butler bullied his way to the basket. Butler himself took 15 free throws, hitting 13 of them.

The two stars attempted 33 of the team’s 42 free throws. Allowing this many freebies to the 6ers’ two best players is simply an unsustainable model. The issue is there may be nothing the Nets can really do to prevent this from happening.

3. This Actually Happened

The legend of Boban Marjanovic continues to grow. The literal most efficient player in NBA history son-ed DeMarre Carroll so badly Carroll may need to retire.

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That really happened in an NBA playoff game. There was one space alien giant so much larger than his defender, that he merely pivoted around without dribbling, then lightly placed the ball up and in the basket without 1. jumping or 2. receiving any form of resistance or contest from the defender that was physically touching him.


1. How (Un)Healthy is Embiid?

Embiid’s health is back to being a mystery. He ended up playing Game 1, but as noted previously he left the first half early to get a head start on his halftime treatment. Embiid, who missed 14 of 24 games after the All-Star break, allegedly has knee pain when jumping and landing. He wasn’t actually deemed available to play in this one until seven minutes before tip-off.

It’s difficult to determine if Embiid’s Game 1 shooting woes were the result of his knee issue or just an off night. He otherwise played well, evidenced by the 18 trips to the line and 15 rebounds. Still, the uncertainty around the health of his knee in congress with the fact he went to the locker room early and his poor shooting performances raises some flags.

Embiid is the single biggest mismatch in this series, so if he isn’t fully healthy that is an enormous alteration to how this series may play out.

2. What Was Really on the Phone?

#PhoneGate is off to the races. Amir Johnson decided to bring his cellphone to the bench during the game and check it in the middle of a timeout. Embiid, sitting next to Johnson, peeked over at the screen. The story as of now is that Johnson’s daughter is “extremely sick,” and the two were checking for updates.

I mean, if true, fine. It’s not the most appropriate or professional thing for a player to bring his phone to the bench during a game, but this isn’t some malicious act. Stan Van Gundy, Paul Pierce, and Jalen Rose all made the point that there’s plenty of team staffers that could keep a line of communication between Johnson and whoever is the other party during the game. That would have been better, sure. But Pierce was the only one of the three that thought Brett Brown should just “nip it in the bud,” and everyone move on. Van Gundy and Rose were demonstrably outraged.

BUT, is that what was really on the phone? Is the cover story true? The circumstantial evidence points to yes because neither player smiled after checking the screen. It would be more difficult to say they were checking on an “extremely sick” daughter if they were caught on camera smiling and cracking up after looking at the phone. Still, an investigation seems warranted.

However, considering this is the franchise that investigated the Bryan Colangelo disaster and the best garbage PR line anyone could come up with was to throw Colangelo’s wife under the bus, we’re never going to know what was really on that phone.


The series screamed Philly in four or five prior to Game 1. There’s a good chance now there will be a Game 6. However, there should not be a “well Brooklyn really has a chance now,” overreaction to what happened Saturday.

Brooklyn got out of town with a single digit victory in a game where Embiid was off (but due to a potential injury this may persist), the 6ers went 3/25 from deep, including J.J. Redick going 1/4 from deep, Simmons and Harris combining for 13 points, and the Philly shooting 69% from the line on a ridiculous 42 attempts.

This was not a convincing win by any means. Many things swung in Brooklyn’s favor and if they were a real threat to Philadelphia this game would have been a blowout. The Nets can grab a home game and steal two in this series, but it would be wise to not start day dreaming about advancing to the second round for Brooklyn fans.

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