Sixers-Nets Game 3 instant breakdown: Tempers flare as Philly steals win

The Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets took their first-round series to the Barclays Center after playing the opening two games in Philly. Up 2-0 entering this game, the Sixers won 102-97 in one of the most hectic games…ever?

Let’s break down an unhinged Game 3 of the Sixers-Nets series.

Sixers player notes:

Joel Embiid: 14 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 5-13 FG shooting

In one of the luckiest officiating breaks you’ll ever see, Embiid was given only a Flagrant 1 (instead of an instant ejection) for blatantly kicking Nic Claxton. The Sixers superstar faced more intense double-teaming, once again leaving him in a spot to defer to teammates. He took only two more shots than P.J. Tucker in the first half and was swarmed with serious intensity.

The Sixers’ big man was a force on defense — deterring shots merely with his presence, forcing misses and taking care of the rebounds. But the incident with Claxton and numerous scary falls made this one a brutal game for Embiid.

James Harden: 21 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 8-15 FG shooting

Harden returned to the Barclays Center for just the second time since being traded to the Sixers. He didn’t mince words about his time with the Nets — it was frustrating to see such a talented bunch win (and even play) so little together but he was vindicated for wanting out. For today, it was all about going 2-0 in Brooklyn as a member of the Sixers.

The Beard drew his first two free throws of the series on the Sixers’ first offensive possession. He was wheeling and dealing from the start. His finishing at the rim was more consistent and he took excellent care of the ball. In one of the most confusing calls I have ever seen, he was tossed for driving into Royce O’Neale’s chest on what seemed like just an inadvertent elbow.

Tyrese Maxey: 25 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 10-16 FG shooting

After a stellar performance in Game 2, Maxey took his scoring groove with him on the team bus. He made his first three attempts from downtown and blew right past defenders closing out to him. The kid was absolute nails in the fourth quarter, scoring clutch buckets and making huge defensive plays.

Nets player notes:

Mikal Bridges: 26 points, 6 rebounds,5  assists, 9-26 FG shooting

The weight of being a first option (and not having a highly reliable second option) is certainly weighing hard on Bridges but he has put up a strong effort. He shook off a slump and stayed locked in as he led Brooklyn’s offense. Although he was ice cold when shooting from the paint, he was good enough from everywhere else.

Spencer Dinwiddie: 20 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 5-12 FG shooting

Jacque Vaughn mentioned how important Dinwiddie’s rim pressure was before the game and the veteran guard showed it often. He got to the foul line and took it to the hoop with haste, even scoring a tough layup against Embiid. Georges Niang was somehow his kryptonite but otherwise, he had a solid game.

Game recap:

1st half

The Sixers stuck with Harris on Bridges — Doc Rivers said pregame that they like having the more lightfooted Tobias Harris (and De’Anthony Melton) on him instead of the more burly Tucker. The Nets kept Bridges on Harden and Claxton on Embiid to start the game.

The game got hot less than three minutes in when Claxton finished a lob over Emibid and stepped over him. Embiid retaliated with a kick to Claxton’s groin area from his back and a scrum ensued. The Sixers star was given a Flagrant 1 foul and the Nets center was assessed with a technical. Claxton got some revenge with a strip-and-slam and a floater bucket on the next two possessions, helping the Nets take an eight-point lead.

Maxey once again was feeling himself, making four of his first five shots as the Nets struggled to double Embiid and contain him in the open space. Unfortunately for Philly, he also picked up a pair of fouls. On the other side, Bridges and Dinwiddie combined for 17 points and four assists in the first 10 minutes of the game. Brooklyn pushing the pace and cashing in at the free-throw line powered an offensive surge that has previously been hard to come by in this series.

The Nets went back to Day’Ron Sharpe as the backup center instead of going right to their small-ball look, though O’Neale did also check into the game. Tempers flared once again when Embiid and Sharpe got tangled up but the fire was extinguished right away. Cam Thomas also got his first real minutes of the series as Philadelphia’s subs came in.

Brooklyn’s defensive plan did not waver. Embiid was denied a chance to even dribble the ball on several possessions as Brooklyn went small with Dorian Finney-Smith on the big fella. His teammates took advantage of his gravity to put Philly up by 11.

The Sixers went into halftime leading 58-47.

2nd half

Embiid scored on a gorgeous step-through move in the post to get the half underway. Claxton threw down an uncontested dunk off of a roll to respond. The Nets took the lead in less than four minutes as Bridges started percolating and the Sixers coughed the ball up. Embiid took a hard fall contesting a Cam Johnson layup and limped badly up the court, leading to a Philly timeout.

The start of the half from hell did not dissipate, though Embiid was able to stay in the game. Claxton got him up in the air and finished through the contact, pinning a third foul on him. A four-point play from Johnson pushed Brooklyn’s lead to five. Embiid was denied a shot trying to go through a double and traveled on a potential layup. Philly’s zone defense which worked very well last game was not as effective.

A Melton triple tied the game back up before one from Dinwiddie took it back. Harden committed an offensive foul on O’Neale and received a Flagrant 2, disqualifying him from the game. The only explanation I have for it was that it was a make-up call for going easy on Embiid. Nothing about it seemed like excessive contact.

The Sixers trailed by six entering the fourth quarter and quickly got it down to two. Claxton received his second technical foul of the game after dunking on and taunting Embiid, as if this game wasn’t already well off the rails. Brooklyn put O’Neale on Embiid and didn’t back down an inch. After a couple of unreal in-and-out misses from Brooklyn, Embiid picked up his fifth foul of the game.

Embiid forced Bridges into tough jumpers instead of taking it to the rim simply by being in position in front of the hoop, a huge defensive boost for Philly. The Nets found answers for everything they got from the Sixers until Maxey burst out of the phone booth with a Superman cape. He stole the ball and scored to tie up the game and then hit a pull-up triple to take the lead.

Embiid flew in to swat a Dinwiddie layup with under 15 seconds left but Tucker made only one free throw, giving Philly only a three-point lead. O’Neale threw the ball backcourt with no one back there but Melton, who scored the easiest bucket of the game.

Phew. What an absolutely outrageous game.

Random thoughts:

The Harden-to-Houston rumors from today don’t seem like anything new to me. The pressure for the Sixers to win with Harden this postseason and offer him a bigger contract this offseason has been obvious since this past summer and his reported interest in a return has been known since Christmas.
It wasn’t a gaudy rebound total from Playoff Tucker but good lord are his determination and hustle off the charts.

Game 4 will be on Saturday at 1:00 PM EST.

The post Sixers-Nets Game 3 instant breakdown: Tempers flare as Philly steals win appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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