Eight months ago, the Brooklyn Nets found few answers in attempting to contain Joel Embiid. The result was a first-round exit in five games at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Two months after losing in the postseason, the Nets drastically remade their roster, while the 76ers were unable to retain Jimmy Butler, who signed with the Miami Heat.
For the first time since meeting in the postseason, the Atlantic Division foes get together Sunday night in Brooklyn.
The Nets won the first game of the series, earning the back pages in the New York tabloids, but the Sixers won three of the final four games by double digits and ended Brooklyn’s season on April 23 with a 122-100 win by scoring the first 14 points.
In the series, Embiid dominated by averaging 24.8 points and 13.5 rebounds while shooting 50.7 percent (34-of-67).
Of the 14 players who saw time for Brooklyn in the series, half are elsewhere, including D’Angelo Russell, who joined Golden State in a sign-and-trade that landed Kevin Durant in Brooklyn. Also not on Brooklyn’s roster for the postseason series was Kyrie Irving, who will miss his 15th consecutive game due to right shoulder impingement he sustained Nov. 12 in Utah.
The Nets are 9-5 without Irving and have used the same starting lineup of Spencer Dinwiddie, Garrett Temple, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince and Joe Harris in each game with Irving out. Dinwiddie scored 24 points in Saturday’s 110-102 loss in Toronto and is averaging 23.9 points in Irving’s absence.
The Nets have lost consecutive games for the first time in Irving’s absence. They followed up blowing a 20-point lead in the second quarter in Wednesday’s 113-108 home loss to Charlotte by shooting 38.6 percent in Toronto, including missing 34 of 46 3-point attempts, and committing 20 turnovers Saturday.
“(There were) a lot of the shots we could have made that we missed (and) that were wide open that we usually hit, but it’s a good learning curve, especially going into (the) Philly (game) tomorrow,” Prince said.
The Nets will also add Wilson Chandler, whose season debut comes after he missed the first 25 games due to a suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. Chandler began last season with Philadelphia but was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for Tobias Harris, who wound up re-signing with the 76ers.
Philadelphia enters Sunday on a five-game winning streak and with nine wins in its last 10 games. Four of Philadelphia’s wins during its streak are by single digits, including Friday’s 116-109 home win over New Orleans, when Harris scored 31 points and continued a roll that has seen him average 24.9 points in his last seven games.
“He’s been so steady and just responsible and reliable,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said of Harris. “He’s our go-to guy, and I put him in a bunch of different spots.”
Embiid totaled 24 points and 11 rebounds to follow up a 38-point night in Thursday’s nationally televised win at Boston. He has 17 double-doubles, including three straight, and Philadelphia is 13-4 when he gets a double-double.
Embiid conceded the Sixers did not possess similar energy on Friday as they did in the Boston game.
“We should bring the same intensity every game,” Embiid said. “We didn’t do that tonight. Last night, you could tell that we were more focused than we were tonight. It happens, and it’s a part of back-to-back games.”
Including the postseason, Philadelphia is 10-4 in the past 14 meetings with Brooklyn.
–Field Level Media