Defense, what defense?
Sunday’s matchup between the Nets and 76ers did not contain much, as the two teams combined to score 217 points. Philadelphia came up as the victor, 120-97, leading nearly wire-to-wire outside Brooklyn’s 2-0 start.
Early on the Nets actually got many good looks on offense, but shots were not falling. Brooklyn started 1-of-9 from three, with brick after brick clanking on the rim.
One of the only Nets who got his offense going was D’Angelo Russell, who finished with 26 points on 4-of-8 shooting from three. That is the most he has scored since his injury, so that’s something, but there was still much left to be desired.
With Philly’s starters dominating from the jump, the five of them joined three players off the bench to put up double digits for Philly. Holding a lead as large as 27 points in the fourth quarter, the 76ers took advantage of the paint with a 58-38 edge, especially with Joel Embiid’s 21 points on the game.
Turnovers caused problems for the Nets as Philly took advantage of each one. The 76ers scored 22 points off Brooklyn’s 18 turnovers, playing a role in what was a suffocating Philadelphia offense. The Nets had no room to take advantage of mistakes, as the 76ers shot an eye-popping 80 percent in the first quarter and 52.6 percent on the game.
While the Nets went on a 6-0 run just before halftime, they never made a real threat at overtaking the lead. Outside Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, no one could really find the bottom of the net. It just seemed as if Brooklyn was out-matched in every way.
One player who was a pleasant surprise for the Nets was Jahlil Okafor, playing off the bench in his first game since Feb. 12. He played just six minutes, but Okafor went on a quick burst of his own in the second quarter, not getting much time again until the fourth to prove his efficiency. Maybe it was just comfort in front of his old team, but it was good to see positives out of Okafor.
The Nets out-scored Philly 35-33 in the second quarter but the 76ers went on to dominate in the fourth quarter to seal the deal. With Philly sporting a 24-14 edge in the final frame, the Nets did not get many clean looks and were sloppy with the ball. With less than seven minutes left and down 24, the Nets emptied the bench, and that was that.
Onto the next.
D’Angelo Russell Point Guard
26 PTS, 9-17 FG, 4-8 3FG, 4-5 FT, 4 REB, 4 AST, 3 TOV, 28 MIN
Russell was great offensively, but he was not Brooklyn’s most effective floor general. He finished the game with a minus-24 rating, worst on the team by seven points, and was the victim of the wrath of Philly’s starters. He also turned the ball over three times, tied for most on the team along with Allen Crabbe (another player who could not find his rhythm).
He kept his team alive with his shot and did not play much in the fourth quarter, but the Nets will always need more from Russell, no matter the situation.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Small Forward
12 PTS, 6-9 FG, 6 REB, 1 AST, 2 TOV, 1 BLK, 23 MIN
RHJ was efficient in the paint and was successful in creating his shot, but it did not do much good with Philly getting their way on offense. Nets fans thank you for trying, Rondae.
DeMarre Carroll Small Forward
6 PTS, 1-9 FG, 0-2 3FG, 4-4 FT, 6 REB, 1 TOV, 1 BLK, 25 MIN
Not the offensive outburst Nets fans have started to expect from DeMarre, and the majority of his shots were not from distance as usual. It was not what the Nets needed from him.
Dante Cunningham Power Forward
5 PTS, 2-7 FG, 1-3 3FG, 6 REB, 1 AST, 2 TOV, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 17 MIN
Dante was another Net who struggled from the field, but he did a lot of the little things — he had four offensive rebounds and was as active on defense as anyone on the team. It was not enough for Brooklyn, but the effort was there.