Game 2: The Nets must be ready for the 76ers’ bounce back

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Time: 8:00 PM EST
Location: Wells Fargo Center
Watch: TNT
Listen: WFAN 101.9, 660 AM

The Brooklyn Nets currently lead the Philadelphia 76ers 1-0 in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs following a 111-102 victory on Saturday’s opening feature.

The game contained its fair share of drama with Amir Johnson looking at his phone while on the bench and Philadelphia fans booing All-Star Ben Simmons to the point of irritation.

Ultimately, those incidents will likely not have an impact on Game 2, but the Nets’ injury report definitely could. Jared Dudley and Ed Davis — both of whom made massive contributions to the series opener — are questionable and Allen Crabbe remains out as he recovers from surgery on his right knee. Without those key veteran pieces, Brooklyn could struggle to withstand what is sure to be a stronger 76ers squad ready for revenge in the second game.

The Nets surprised Philadelphia in Game 1, but it will only get harder from here.

Three Things To Watch For:

1. Three-Point Shooting

Analysts knew that this series could fluctuate wildly based on Brooklyn’s reliance on the three-point shot, but the difference in the first meeting was staggering.

Saying that Philadelphia shot the ball poorly would be a gross understatement as they were atrocious from beyond-the-arc, connecting on just three of their 25 attempts. That ties their lowest amount of threes made and is their second-worst performance by three-point percentage for the whole season.

Jimmy Butler was their best shooter — hitting one of his three attempts — which makes sense as he was the force driving their offense. It is extremely unlikely that they will convert so poorly on their attempts again. Look for Mike Scott and J.J. Redick to have a much better night in their re-do efforts.

On the flip side, the Nets were fantastic from deep and they shot 42.3 percent as a team from behind the three-point line. Five players hit at least one three, half of the rotation. Brooklyn usually hits 35.3 percent of their deep shots, so don’t be shocked if they have a tougher time of it tonight. A swing of even a few percentage points could result in a completely different looking game.

2. Free Throws and Fouls

The Nets and 76ers had a similar amount of fouls committed, 27 to 24, but Philadelphia still shot nearly 20 more free throws.

Most people realized that the Nets would have a hard time trying to contain the offensive firepower of Philadelphia, but giving them 42 total attempts is simply not sustainable. The only reason that it didn’t cost them their win were the poor percentages from Embiid and Simmons with 66.7 and 20 percent, respectively.

Embiid usually hits closer to 80 percent and Simmons hovers around 60 percent — and those extra points really do matter in a series as close as this one appears to be. Eventually, they will start to sink them, so Brooklyn must not get caught fouling as aggressively.

The Nets, conversely, hit their free-throws exceptionally well, hitting 24 of their 26 attempts for a 92.3 percent conversion rate. As any Brooklyn fan worth their salt knows, such a robust number from the charity stripe is not exactly their forte — so definitely expect a regression to the mean here as well.

3. The Three-Headed Hydra

There is a monster growing in Brooklyn and it has some sharp teeth.

D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, and Spencer Dinwiddie form the three focal points of the Nets’ offense. Their drives to the rim are decisive and quick, honestly, Embiid was lucky to escape with only one foul in the first contest. Redick was not as fortunate and fouled out with a little over five minutes left in the fourth quarter. If you overhelp trying to cut off one of the heads, another will fill the gap either with their own drive or an open three-point look. 

The trinity of guards combined for 67 points, over 60 percent of the Nets’ points. They shot 24-of-57 from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc. In case that doesn’t make it clear enough, they flat-out dominated. The trio’s command and control of the game will make-or-break Brooklyn in this series. The onus is now on the Sixers to find a way to respond to them.

If they fail, and the hydra continues to ravage Philadelphia’s defense, there is a serious opportunity for Brooklyn to move on to the second round.

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