Nets Try to Stun the 76ers on Tuesday Night

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Opponent: Philadelphia 76ers
Time: 7:30 PM EST 
Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Watch: YES Network, CSN Philly, Fox Sports GO 
Listen: WCBS 880 AM

The Brooklyn Nets have had a solid March. They hold a 7-8 record for the month – it may not be a Miami Heat-level change, but the Nets have improved. That can’t be denied. It took them fewer games to go from win number 10 to win number 16 than it did for them to go from win number 9 to win 10. Is it the real March Madness? Ben thinks so…

The Nets’ recent performance has been a hopeful sign for a team that struggled to find an identity – and wins in the first three-quarters of the season. Better late than never!

The Nets are coming off of an impressive win against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday afternoon in the ATL. The Hawks were missing two key players in Kent Bazemore and Paul Millsap and the Nets capitalized. They were victorious 107-92, leading the game by as many as 22 points. Brook Lopez led the way for the Nets, scoring 23 points and becoming the Nets’ all-time leader in field goals made, passing Buck Williams. Coach Kenny Atkinson finally notched his first win against his former employers, and mentor Mike Budenholzer. It was a promising sign for a team that seemingly failed to show up on Friday night against the Wizards.

Brooklyn came away with a 3-1 record in the week of March 20. With nine games left in the regular season, Brooklyn will try to make their record even more respectable.

The Nets will face the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night in game number 74. (Doesn’t it feel like yesterday that we were debating if Greivis Vasquez and Jeremy Lin would fit on the court during the preseason?) While it may not be The Process anymore, the 76ers are still trying to find continuity and success.

This season saw the long-awaited debut of Joel Embiid. In his 31 games with the 76ers, Embiid looked like a bonafide superstar. He was a force on the court and one of the most interesting social media figures in the NBA. He was likely to be a shoo-in Rookie of the Year winner if he had played the entire season, but Embiid was sidelined in January due to a meniscus tear. With Embiid, the 76ers were 13-18. Without the physical embodiment of “The Process,” the 76ers are 14-28. Nets fans know what it’s like to struggle without a key player.

The 76ers have gone 4-6 in their last 10 games, including two tough overtime losses to the Portland Trail Blazers and the Orlando Magic. In their last game, they fell to the Indiana Pacers, 107-94. The 76ers will likely be without Jahlil Okafor, who has missed their last two games.

While these two teams may not be playoff contenders, the two teams have had some close matchups, with the 76ers edging out Brooklyn in both, 108-107 and 105-95. The Nets will play the 76ers twice in the upcoming week.

3 Things to Watch for in Nets-76ers:

1. Super Dario

Dario Saric is awesome! Full disclosure, I wanted him on the Nets since he first broke out as a 16-year old and proceeded to trade for/draft him in all of my NBA 2k games. And he’s a Nets fan! (Or at least a fan of fellow Croatian, Nets great Drazen Petrovic). After a shaky start to the season, Saric has found footing as a key player for the 76ers. In the month of March, Saric has averaged 19.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game over 14 games. He rivals Nuggets’ stud Nikola Jokic for the “best passing” big man in the league. Check it out.

He has been an integral part in Philadelphia’s wins this season. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Trevor Booker will try to contain the potential Rookie of the Year candidate.

2. Steals, Blocks, and Defense

The Philadelphia 76ers may not have the best record, but they are effective in some areas. They are third in the league in steals and seventh in the league in blocks – an impressive number for any team. Philly ranks sixth in defensive turnovers created at 15.1 per game. They rank number 14 in defensive rating, per basketball-reference. Those numbers show that the team competes on defense. They have several solid athletes in their starting lineup, including Richaun Holmes, Robert Covington, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabaret. The Nets have (infamously) struggled with turnovers and scoring droughts this season. The Nets’ offense needs to click in order to outscore (and outpace) their opponents on Tuesday night.

3. Philly Cheese-Grit

I apologize if that was the worst puns/wordplay things ever. But like the Nets’ #BrooklynGrit, Philadelphia plays hard. Head coach Brett Brown gets the best out of his roster which is devoid of talent. Without high upside young studs Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Philly has been surprisingly competent at times. They hold big victories over the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks recently.

The Sixers even made the Golden State Warriors sweat with the game going down to the final possession in their contest two weeks ago at Oracle Arena. Although they lost 106-104, their performance against Stephen Curry and Co. should not be discounted.

Despite the late season lack of gravitas, both the Nets and 76ers compete every night. They can turn a seemingly “winnable game” into an opponent’s nightmare. Expect a hard-fought game between the two Atlantic Division teams.

Pregame coverage on the YES Network will start at 7:00 p.m. EST. Be sure to follow @TheBKGame on Twitter for live game coverage. See you at the game!