131-115 without Joel Embiid. It was dominant and it will likely be the backbreaker for this series. Brett Brown referred to the playoffs as a series of chess matches and he has made the Nets adjust in 2 straight games after Brooklyn took the first punch in game 1. 

“With Joel down that’s a big scoring loss” – Tobias Harris after game 3 

The Sixers knew that, at some point, Embiid was going to need a game of rest for the long term management of his playoff availability. Using game 3 was logical on a number of levels. First it carried a risk/reward calculus that was as good as you could hope. Should the Nets win at home, the series would remain the tough matchup many expected. But if the Sixers were able to go in and win without Embiid, the series would be for all intents and purposes over. 

The second factor is that it again allows the Sixers to play the role of moving target tactically. Last year the Sixers had a fairly straitforward and predictable way of beating teams. That predictability helped them win 16 games in a row but also made them a stationary target in the playoffs which good coaches like Brad Stevens and to a lesser extent Erik Spoelstra plan for. This series thus far has been a case of Brown looking like he has all of the optionality and Kenny Atkinson the one saddled with very little flexibility or margin for error. 

Brett Brown Zags

The chorus of protest was deafening on twitter as the game’s early moments unfolded. Brett Brown had named Greg Monroe as the game 3 starter and virtually all of Sixers twitter was united in disdain. When the Nets collected 3 early offensive rebounds the protests hit a crescendo.

The obvious alternative to this would be to start either Jonah Bolden or Boban Marjanovic. Bolden is problematic in this series because of his relative lack of discipline defensively. His desire to hunt blocks is not unlike Richaun Holmes. The Sixers really want to play drop coverage in the pick and roll and encourage De’Angelo Russell to pull up for contested two pointers. Bolden would have more difficulty staying home and would likely open up the rim for lobs and put backs.

De’Angelo Russell and Caris Levert both referred to the Sixers personnel as “Guys who are specialized in what they do” Levert said “They have specialists at each position” This is especially true regarding how Brown is deploying his backup big men. Each of them are useful under a very specific set of circumstances.

Boban, for example, is best used as a change of pace. A little Boban is a great thing, especially against a team that wants to play like Brooklyn does. But too much gives a team a chance to adjust and exploit his lack of lateral movement. Having him come off the bench continues to make sense.

Ben Simmons Dominates

I’m not saying Jared Dudley motivated Ben based on his comments over the past week, but I’m also not, not saying it. The more plausible explanation though is that Ben simply recognizes the need to get downhill and break the will of the Nets. He was simply dominant again to the tune of 31 points and 9 assists on 11-13 shooting.

Buying into what we have built and that foundation

Ben Simmons after game 3

It is hard to overstate the value of someone who can provide volume scoring on so few attempts. It allows him, as the point guard, to make sure everyone else gets fed and gets rhythm. Just a truly masterful job from Simmons in the past 2 games.

What Next?

I would expect Joel Embiid to play in game 4. I think that Brett is playing with pace and mixing up the looks and the Sixers would like to end this series in 5 on Tuesday. Joel will have had 4 days of rest for game 4 and anymore would drift into impacting his conditioning and a loss Saturday would for a long series. Joel is likely to return, the Nets will have to come up with something to counter what they have seen so far but the series looks like it is well in control at this point.

Listen to the latest burner for a medical perspective and insight into Joel Embiid’s condition from Dr. Raj Brar DPT. There is both cause for concern and relief.