Brooklyn Nets (33-32) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (40-24)
Tuesday, March 8 @ Wells Fargo Center
How to Watch/Listen:
7:30 p.m. ET on TNT and WFAN 101.9 FM / 660 AM.
It’s the game that has been circled on just about everyone’s calendar since the Nets and Philadelphia 76ers swapped superstars at the NBA trade deadline. The Nets vs. James Harden. The city of Philidelphia vs. Ben Simmons.
The Nets have tried to downplay the impending meeting between the two Eastern Conference foes. Kevin Durant even tried to say that the game wasn’t the beginning of a rivalry when he spoke with reporters on Tuesday.
“If we play like three, four years in the playoffs against each other, yeah,” Durant said about when the two clubs become rivals. “Until we do that, I don’t think playing a team one time in the playoffs is a rivalry. Not even two. I’d say three or four times makes you a rivalry, and the players got to stay on the same teams.”
Even if the players aren’t publicly buying into the rivalry the fans in Philadelphia and Brooklyn are sure to. Simmons and the Nets are expected to walk into an extremely hostile environment at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.
Simmons has not been back to the arena he called home for four seasons during his time with the Sixers since the playoffs last year. The reception isn’t expected to be any warmer either after a report on Tuesday suggested that Simmons planned to file a grievance against the 76ers and use Thursday’s return as part of his case.
“Ben Simmons can go to hell,” a Sixers fan told CBS3 in Philadelphia. “If I had a jersey, which I would never buy a Ben Simmons jersey for when he was here, I would still burn it tomorrow, so good luck Ben Simmons, you’re gonna need it.”
While the atmosphere is expected to be hostile, the Nets don’t plan to coddle Simmons because of it. Durant told reporters that Simmons understands what he’s walking into.
“I’m sure it’s going to be some personal attacks, some words that may trigger you personally, but that’s just how fans are,” Durant said. “They’re going to get under our skin. And they’re going to let their voices be heard. Part of the experience of coming to an NBA game is to heckle. Some people don’t even enjoy basketball, their lives are so sh-tty that they get to just aim it at other people. … Ben understands that.”
As for the game itself, it will be another critical game for the Nets as they inch closer towards the postseason. Brooklyn finally snapped its four-game skid on Tuesday with a win over the Charlotte Hornets, which included a 50-point effort from Kyrie Irving.
The Nets will need another big performance out of Irving, along with Durant in Philly. When it has come to playing the Sixers, Durant has made it a habit of stepping up his game this season.
Durant has averaged 32 points, 10.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists. Durant had 29-plus points in all three previous meetings this season against the 76ers.
The Sixers are coming off a 121-106 win over the Chicago Bulls on Monday and have won six of their last seven games. James Harden has quickly adapted to life in Philly and playing alongside Joel Embiid.
Harden had 16 points in the win over the Bulls and the Sixers have gone 5-0 in the games that their newest remember has appeared in. Embiid had 43 points in their latest win.
“I just had to go out there and be a playmaker,” Harden said. “He (Embiid) had it going from the beginning. I see that. If he needed help, I was there to help him, but 43 points is a pretty good game. I think all of us just tried to fill in where we needed to.”
Why it Matters:
The Nets were able to leapfrog the Charlotte Hornets to move back into eighth in the Eastern Conference with their win on Monday. Brooklyn is still 2.5 games back of the Toronto Raptors for the seventh seed in the East and 5.5 games back of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the sixth seed.
If the Nets win it would give them a 3-1 season series victory over the Sixers, which would mark their first season series victory over Philadelphia since the 2014-15 season. … Irving registered the 12th 50-point game of the 2021-22 season. Kevin Durant also recorded a 50-point game (51 points) earlier this season on 12/12/21 at Detroit. This is the first season in franchise history in which the Nets had two players record a 50-point game. … Last game, Andre Drummond recorded his third double-double as a Net (10th of the season) with a season-high 20 points (7-of-13 FG, 6-of-10 FT), 14 rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes.
Nets: LaMarcus Aldridge (right hip impingement), David Duke Jr. (G League – two-way), Joe Harris (left ankle surgery), Ben Simmons (return to competition reconditioning/back soreness) and Day’Ron Sharpe (G League assignment) are out.
76ers: Charles Bassey (G League assignment), Charlie Brown Jr. (G League – two-way), Danny Green (left middle finger laceration), Myles Powell (G League – two-way), Jaden Springer (G League assignment) are out.
76ers vs. Nets Odds, Lines, More
- Spread: 76ers -4.5
- Nets Moneyline: +164
- 76ers Moneyline: -196
- First Basket: Joel Embiid +430