76ers’ Doc Rivers opens up on Nets’ lack of star power ahead of first-round matchup

Doc Rivers sat down at the podium ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers’ regular-season finale Sunday in Brooklyn. He candidly joked about the irrelevance of the game given both teams would rest their top players ahead of the upcoming first-round matchup.

The conversation shifted to a more serious tone when the head coach was asked how Philadelphia will prepare for a Brooklyn Nets team without a star player:

“They say you have to have stars to win a championship. They don’t say you have to have stars to win a series. There’s a big difference,” Rivers replied. “You have to be ready. The playoffs is what makes you a star. There’s probably three or four guys when this whole season is over who are gonna be stars that we don’t even know yet.

“Let’s hope we don’t create them.”

Nets’ lack of star power

Much of the conversation surrounding the new-look Nets’ ceiling following the trades of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving has centered on their lack of star power. So much so that Brooklyn head coach Jacque Vaughn emphasized that his team clinched the playoffs without a marquee name, unlike the majority of the teams joining them:

“You look at teams seven, eight, nine, ten, they have an All-Star or multiple All-Stars on their team,” Vaughn said Friday. “And this sixth seed, the Brooklyn Nets, we did it in a very competitive and collective way as a group, as a team.”

Mikal Bridges has been the closest thing to a star for the Nets. In 26 games, the breakout forward has averaged 27.2 points on 48/38/89 shooting splits while guarding the opposing team’s best scorer on a nightly basis. Rivers is correct, NBA stars are born in the playoffs. And when he said he hopes his team doesn’t create any this postseason, he was more than likely referring to Bridges.

While Bridges has been outstanding, the Nets’ depth has been on full display during a 6-2 stretch to close the regular season.

Brooklyn has three wings in Cam Johnson, Royce O’Neale and Dorian Finney-Smith who can guard one through five while knocking down open threes. Joe Harris is shooting 46.8 percent from deep over his last 20 appearances. Nic Claxton has been among the league’s best defenders, ranking second in blocked shots while routinely stifling ball handlers on switches, per NBA.com. Spencer Dinwiddie ranks second in the NBA in assists (9.2 per game) since joining Brooklyn. His 1.20 points per possession in isolation also rank second among 55 players with 100 or more possessions this season.

It’s a rotation that kept Brooklyn competitive against playoff teams over the last two months, the Sixers being one of them. Philadelphia overcame a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit in the new-look Nets’ first game, narrowly escaping after a Dinwiddie game-tying three was waved off at the buzzer.


— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) February 12, 2023

Rivers said that he rewatched the game Saturday and felt his team was lucky to come away with a win.

“I watched that last night again and I think they outplayed us in that game,” he said. “That hopefully will be something we remember because they’re capable. They just have a lot of guys. It’s not like you can key on the one guy anymore or the two guys with this team. They’re an efficient team.”

“Since the trade they’ve added some interesting pieces. Cam and Mikal, you know, I think they’re free and they’re playing well. They’re all long and they’re very switchable.”

Cam Johnson and Mikal Bridges in their Nets debut:

Bridges: 23 PTS, 6 REB, 3 3PM
Johnson: 12 PTS, 7 REB, 3 AST, 3 STL pic.twitter.com/UW0MtJT5OT

— NBA (@NBA) February 12, 2023

The Nets head into the series with the NBA’s fifth-best net rating over their last 19 games. Philadelphia sits two spots behind them during that span.

Vaughn expresses confidence in Brooklyn

Vaughn’s squad will be tasked with slowing down MVP-frontrunner Joel Embiid and former Net James Harden if they hope to pull off an upset. The head coach said that his team has made strides on both ends since their first matchup with Philadelphia:

“We have a very competitive group that has the ability to lock in,” Vaughn said Sunday. “They can get stops on demand. We have grown to understand what is the best defense for us and how we need to play on that end of the floor. Understanding whose responsibility it is to guard the basketball, cover for each other, protect the rim. So those things we figured out just by playing with each other.”

“Then we somehow figured out how to score the basketball together and lean on each other that way… I think we’ve pretty much carved out a niche of what the offense could look like. The sets that are good for us, the movement, the pace. All those things that in the first Philly game were all new. We were all trying to figure it out, I was trying to understand these dudes. I think we’re in a better position of (knowing) what our gifts are and what our deficiencies are.”

With what was essentially a rest day Sunday, both teams will have an entire week off leading up to the series. The Nets will travel down the New Jersey turnpike for Game 1 with tipoff set for 1 PM Saturday.

The post 76ers’ Doc Rivers opens up on Nets’ lack of star power ahead of first-round matchup appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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