“We expect a haymaker, we know it’s going to happen. they are too good, too well coached.” Kenny Atkinson on the Sixers in game 2— J Blevins (@JBlevinsNBA) April 15, 2019
Kenny Atkinson said before Game 2 that the Nets expected the Sixers to throw a “haymaker.” Turns out he was positively prophetic as the Sixers dumped an NBA playoff record tying 51 points in the third quarter en route to a 145-123 rout Monday in Philadelphia.
For the first half, the Nets were able to score on pace with the Sixers, but in the third quarter the game finally broke. “We did what we tried to do in the first half, just kind of harder, better, longer type stuff. We didn’t really change stuff schematically; we just did what we wanted to do better,” head coach Brett Brown said after the game. “And I thought that in the third period, we did a good – better – job of taking away some space getting to their feet… As far as the win goes, for me [it] was driven through our defense in the second half.”
Ben Simmons Downhill
Ben Simmons played downhill from the start and finished the game with 18 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, and 2 steals in a downright dominant performance. He became the fifth player in NBA history to record multiple triple-doubles in his first 12 career playoff games, joining Hall of Famers Clyde Drexler, Magic Johnson, and Oscar Robertson, and most recently LeBron James. Suffice to say, he delivered on everything he had promised on Sunday after practice when he pledged to play more aggressively.
Simmons responded to the Game 1 struggles by scoring on 8 of his 12 field goals and pressuring the Nets’ interior defense to a breaking point. Simmons delivered on his keys of “staying aggressive, attacking downhill, making them make tough plays.”
“I think I was trying to run the team too much and getting guys the ball and putting guys in certain positions,” Simmons said prior to Game 2. “Sometimes I need to take it upon myself to just go to the rim and attack.”
Aside from his stellar play, Simmons also seemed to have turned a page on his comments about the fans from Saturday night. Multiple times on Monday night, Simmons acknowledged the crowd and incited the fans to cheer even more loudly. He mentioned postgame, “I got a lot of love for this city and the fans here.”
Have never seen Ben Simmons work the crowd like this before.— J Blevins (@JBlevinsNBA) April 16, 2019
When asked after the game if he felt like he delivered on his keys of staying aggressive, playing downhill, and engaging the crowd, Simmons demurred, noting his 3 turnovers as an area still to improve. “I think I had too many turnovers. I was aggressive. Just try to play the game the right way. I think I delivered, but, you know, at the same time, we still got a few more games. It was only one game.”
Embiid similarly was dominant with 23 points on just 12 shots and most importantly in only 20 minutes. He took advantage of Jarrett Allen and Ed Davis getting them in early foul trouble and then started the third quarter barrage that led to the blowout.
For Embiid, it was vital to dispatch the Nets quickly to reduce the amount of load needed on his sore left knee.
“Why would he sit out? Nobody can defend him,” said Boban about Embiid when asked if he might need to step in should Joel need to sit out.
Joel has a knee brace under his sleeve pic.twitter.com/IUwFRWb0BU— J Blevins (@JBlevinsNBA) April 15, 2019
Ben and Joel Postgame
Boban Punishes the Zone
Boban Marjanovic was 8-14 from the field for 16 points after being challenged by a sagging Nets defense to take wide open shots from the high post.
“I don’t know man, maybe they didn’t see me shoot?” Marjanovic quipped after the game. “It’s good for my team if it’s open. I can help to space the floor for teammates.”
“It was nice, just basketball. It’s what you are supposed to do, it’s fun. The first game it was tight, first game of the playoffs, but we did what we needed to do [in Game 2]. Everybody played like a team; it’s supposed to look like that.”
Boban also remarked on the solid defensive performance, especially in the second half. “Communication on defense was so good.” Referring to his own ability to impact the game on that end, Marjanovic said, “My advantage is my size, to be honest. I know I’m not that fast, but I’m not so slow.”
Brett Brown Postgame
Game 3 is Thursday night in Brooklyn at 8pm. With the series tied 1-1, the Sixers will look to take back home court advantage. For a young Nets team, the challenge will be in adjusting to playing the same team multiple times in a row, something Caris Levert noted he has never done before tonight.
One of the interesting things to note is that for a young team, the NBA playoffs are really the first time they will face the same opponent multiple times in a row.— J Blevins (@JBlevinsNBA) April 16, 2019
Caris Levert said March Madness is very different. pic.twitter.com/zGzIQ7x3t4