Nets dominate Sixers 129-100, in Simmon's return to Philadelphia
In their first match-up since the blockbuster trade between Philadelphia and Brooklyn, both teams face off in one of the most highly-anticipated matchups of the NBA season. On February 10th, Sean Marks and Daryl Morey swapped a former MVP candidate, for a young star known for his playmaking and defense. There will certainly be some bad blood in the air, due to the circumstances each star left his team on. In Philadelphia, Simmons dealt with mental health and back issues, which kept him off the floor the entire season. But there’s more to that. In a crucial moment during the playoffs, a mental lapse became a catalyst for a rift between Simmons and the Sixers fanbase. The fans completely gave up on him and that tension spread within his own locker room as well. Simmons and Joel Embiid’s relationship mirrored Harden’s and the Nets, by the time he left. After having his back throughout training camp, Embiid (like the Sixers fans) had enough of Simmons. Once he called out Simmons for not taking an “open shot” (clearly referencing that moment in Game 7 against Atlanta) their bond became officially unfixable. It certainly is a sour ending for “The Process” who were supposed to bring a championship after years of tanking.
As for James Harden, he left Brooklyn in a similar manner that he left Houston. His effort on the court was inexcusable, and simply not worth the amount that Marks was paying him. He was dealing with his own injury, but any Nets fan who watched that game against Sacramento will tell you that the effort he displayed defensively was unacceptable. Harden just wasn’t happy in Brooklyn, whether it was due to mandates/Kyrie, relationships with the coaching staff, or being “the guy”. That unhappiness was reflected on the court, and it became an unsalvageable situation as well. So, the Nets and Sixers swapped Harden and Paul Milsap, for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and a 22/27 first round pick. Harden has played in five games for Philly so far, averaging 24.6 points per game and a team-high 12.4 assists. We have yet to see Brooklyn at full strength and Kyrie’s availability only lasts for six more games, including tonight’s in Wells Fargo Arena. Like usual Embiid and the Sixers attacked the inside, and got to the free throw line early on. After getting to the line again, KD and Joel Embiid got into a verbal altercation, which was the only physical fight that was displayed by Philly. The two MVP-caliber players had a heated exchange, but none were ejected. Embiid got to the line 13 times in the first quarter, and made 10 of them. For Brooklyn, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving took over early. KD was knocking down mid-rage shots and threes, while Kyrie was swishing rainbow-style three-pointers and threes in defenders' faces. In the second quarter, KD continued to knock down threes and Kyrie was hitting his signature fadeaways as well. Seth Curry was also automatic, with 12 points on 5/7 shooting. Curry, KD, and Kyrie, combined for a whopping 49 points at the half, and Brooklyn scored 72 points. Brooklyn pushed the ball well, got out in transition, and played a style of offense that was jaw-dropping. One of their biggest advantages tonight was their three-point shooting, where they shot about 58%. Compared to Philadelphia's 30.8%, that was one of the biggest keys for Brooklyn in the first half Brooklyn’s defense also shut down Harden. Harden was completely eliminated in the first half, going 3/15 from the field with only 11 points. His two turnovers were just one shy of the amount of assists he had as well. He couldn’t get anything going, and had a team-lowest -21, for his +/-. Brooklyn forced turnovers, and played fantastic overall defense, but they just couldn’t get as many calls to go their way. Embiid himself shot 12 more free throws than Brooklyn’s entire team did, with 19 in the first half. However, behind KD, Brooklyn was able to maintain their control over this game. Brooklyn’s defense continued to cause chaos on the fast break. The third quarter was a slaughterfest, as the Nets forced turnover after turnover. Brooklyn had six less turnovers, doubled the amount of assists that Philly had, had 23 more fastbreak points, and shot the three-ball better by 10%. Aside from the charity strike, Brooklyn dominated the game, and subsequently won the third quarter in dominant fashion. By the fourth quarter, the Nets already had a massive 35-point lead. Even without Ben Simmons, Durant, Irving, and Curry were able to terrorize Philadelphia. In a horrible second half, Philadelphia had only two more makes than turnovers (9:00 left in fourth). At this point, the game was pretty much over. After a dominant performance in Charlotte, the Nets followed it up with another one tonight. KD had 25-14-7, Kyrie had 22-5-4, and Seth Curry poured in another 24 points. James Johnson was perfect from three (3/3) and added another 16-4-3 (on 6-7 shooting). While the Nets dominated offensively, it was their defense that allowed them to maintain their lead. They locked down Philly, and ended up winning the game by a shocking 29 points. Brooklyn plays their in-state rivals, the New York Knicks, on Sunday at 1:00 pm EST.