Views from 116: Game 1 vs. Nets

Welcome to Views from 116. In case you forgot, this column is a perspective from the stands for the fans. Let’s get to it.

Sixers vs. Nets – Saturday, April 13, 2019

For Game 1, Round 1 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, the 3rd seeded Sixers took on the 6th seeded Nets. The Sixers lost 102-111, falling behind the Nets 0-1 in the best-of-seven-games series.

Pregame:

After about a month of coasting, the Sixers’ 2019 playoff run is finally here!

A beautiful day in Philadelphia allowed RJ, his fiancée Sydney, & I to enjoy some sandwiches outside at Campos before heading down to the stadium. We parked in the Jetro lot and walked over to the Center, fully expecting a “doubtful” Embiid to play.

In retrospect, Embiid certainly looked off, hitting only 5 of 15 from the field. He’s a competitor who has played through injury before and will likely continue to do so in this series. Unfortunately, he seems to be the only player other than Jimmy Butler who is capable of rising to an important occasion on the roster at the moment – and that ability to rise is hampered by a lingering tendonitis in his left knee.

The stadium was buzzing ahead of the game, and people were pretty excited. We grabbed some drinks once we got in and bumped into my cousin Nicole, her husband Joe, and children Joe & Reilly over by P.J. Whelihan’s. Always nice to see family at the game!

Heading into these playoffs, I was curious to see what “Playoff Jimmy” could do. Butler, who had coasted along with the rest of the team the last four months, did not disappoint! He finished the day with 36 pts, 9 rebs, and shot 50% from the field, proving to really be the only player on the roster capable of “flipping the switch.”

Ron Brooks belted out the anthem and both Aaron McKie & Allen Iverson rang the bell.

Game on!

First Quarter:

The Sixers actually started out pretty well but ended the quarter on an awful 0-12 run which led to a final quarter deficit 22-31. Jonathon Simmons, Ben Simmons, and JJ Redick checked in with 2:38 to go and the Sixers up 22-19. They then proceeded to play porous perimeter defense, while Embiid & Mike Scott bricked from 3pt land.

This run would end up being somewhat of a microcosm for the afternoon, as the Sixers finished an abysmal 12% from three-point land while continuing to have no real answer for Nets scorers D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Caris LeVert.

Other 1st quarter observations:

  • Embiid actually came out quite strong in the opening minutes and put 3 quick fouls on Nets center Jarrett Allen. While at the free-throw line the amped-up crowd couldn’t decide between “MVP” or “Trust the Process” chants, which would have been much more endearing had we won the game.
  • The only gimmick this quarter was the Chik-Fil-A Basketball Challenge, which is the thing where a fan tries to make a lay-up, free-throw, three-pointer, and then a half-court shot. The fan today only got through the lay-up and free-throw (which is a pretty common outcome).
  • I joked with RJ when Jon Simmons checked in that the Nets were about to go on a run…and sure enough they did. Simmons ended the day with a +/- of -16 and may have played himself out of the series.
    • With James Ennis III still out, the only other viable defensive wing on the bench is rookie Zhaire Smith.
    • I’d expect to see Zhaire in more minutes (he got only 1) during this series as Coach Brett Brown tries to navigate the bad-choice of playing a poor-performing vet or a totally inexperienced rookie. For what it’s worth, my vote is for Zhaire.

Second Quarter:

The Sixers barely won this quarter 32-31 thanks almost exclusively to Jimmy Butler, who went off for 18 points, including 7 in the final minute and a 3 to cut the deficit to 8 to end the half.

At this juncture, I really felt like the Sixers were going to win. They had played pretty poorly and were down only 8 because of Butler’s heroics. That sort of confidence is why Jimmy Butler is here – Butler told our very own Jason Blevins that, despite the loss, he thinks the Sixers will be fine:

Other notes:

Between the quarters, an inflatable Franklin and Franklin Jr. came out to dance. Franklin Jr.’s eyes came off…which seemed fitting.

  • The Sixers were terrible from three on the day and had only made 2 by halftime (and 3 for the whole game!). For the game, Embiid went 0-5, Harris went 0-2, Redick went 1-4, Butler went 1-3, Jon Simmons went 0-2, and Mike Scott went 1-8.
    • While everyone needed to shoot better, Redick and Harris stood out as starters who played like end-of-bench-players. These players are in the lineup to space the floor and make shots at a reasonable clip and they failed to do so.

Third Quarter:

The Sixers lost this quarter 28-31 and took an 11 pt deficit into the 4th quarter. This game went from “about to turn” to “quite depressing” throughout the quarter, as Embiid & Butler led the Sixers to within 2 (63-65) around the 10-minute mark and slowly lost momentum towards an 82-93 deficit by the end.

Ben Simmons and Jon Simmons stuck out to me as negative-or-non-factors this quarter, which is particularly depressing for Ben, a player who is supposed to be a “star.” He would end the day with only 9 pts, many defensive lapses, and a ghastly +/- of -21.

Other 3rd quarter observations:

  • The gimmicks this quarter were the Skills Challenge Relay and the Big Head race. They felt a lot less fun since they happened while the Sixers were losing and playing pretty poorly.
  • The crowd mercilessly booed the Sixers heading into the 4th quarter (yes, I did too). There is a lot of national media hand-wringing about fans booing their own players. Here’s the thing: the Sixers played well beneath their ability and deserved to let that be known. Within the context of the last four weeks of coasting, the rust and lack of urgency felt pretty inexcusable.

Fourth Quarter:

The Sixers would win this quarter 20-18 but lost the game 102-111. There’s not a lot to be said, so I’ll leave you a few tweets on some subjects that I reflected on during a pretty poor and depressing 4th quarter outing:

Sixers lose 102-111. No Fresh water. No $1 pretzels.

The Sixers are now down 0-1 and play again at home Monday night. Lucky for them, the Toronto Raptors also blew their first game, so a longer series against the Nets won’t kill the Sixers.

That’s thinking too far ahead though – this team has real problems that they need to solve. Ben Simmons needs to be better, Tobias Harris needs to better, and, yes, Brett Brown needs to be better. Let’s see if they can round into form Monday night.

Next time I’m in 116, I’ll share some more views. Until then: 1-2-3-4-5-Sixers!

Note: The Sixers are now 15-5 (including 0-1 in the playoffs) while Eric Marturano has attended games this season. Every thing every fan does matters – don’t let anyone ever tell you differently.