At halftime, the Sixers looked like they were in serious trouble.
Philadelphia had dropped its opening game of the NBA playoffs to the Brooklyn, and at halftime of Game 2 they were trailing by one to a Nets team that most people had assumed were just happy to be in the postseason.
For a 76ers team that had NBA Finals aspirations after acquiring Tobias Harris at the trade deadline – pairing him with their stars Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler – the first game was shocking, and the second game wasn’t looking much better.
Then Philadelphia went and dropped 51 points in the third quarter. And with that third quarter explosion, the Sixers reminded the rest of the league that they can run anyone off the court.
The man who started it all was Joel Embiid, who was a gametime decision to play as he had been dealing with knee soreness, and only ended up playing 21 minutes in the contest. (He left the game late after appearing to roll his ankle; he says he’s fine.)
While he wasn’t in the game for long, Embiid made the most of those minutes at the start of the third quarter, going on a solo 8-0 run that looked to slap Philadelphia awake and get their offense in gear.
It should be said that Embiid was lucky to be in the game. He got away with a vicious elbow to the face of Jarrett Allen in the second quarter that, after review, was ruled to be a Flagrant 1 as opposed to a Flagrant 2.
On the defensive end, the Sixers put Simmons on Nets star guard D’Angelo Russell, and Simmons responded, shutting down Russell and keeping him to 0-2 in the third quarter. Without their playmaker able to get going, the Nets’ offense stalled, and the Sixers got more aggressive in transition.
In part spurring the 76ers third quarter explosion: An expletive-laden halftime tirade that woke the players up.
“He came in here and said a few cuss words — shocked me a little bit to tell the truth,” said Jimmy Butler, describing Brown’s tirade. “But I like it; that is the type of energy I love — make sure everybody did their job, letting them know we can’t have it, it’s not winning basketball — and we came out and did what we were supposed to do.”
Also an unexpected boost came from the Sixers’ Boban Marjanović, perceived as an add-on to the Tobias Harris deal from the Clippers (who had their own unreal comeback win on Monday night). Marjanović finished with 16 and 8 in 18 minutes.
With the win, and that quarter, the Sixers showed just how dangerous they can be. Hobbled or not, Embiid is a 7-footer with range who can beat you off the dribble. Simmons is a 6’10” point guard who can defend anyone, and with Harris and Butler wreaking havoc defensively and hitting open shots, they can run just about anyone off the floor.
Game 1 looked ugly. Game 2 was looking bad. But with one quarter, the Sixers showed why they can beat anyone in the East, and very well might make the NBA Finals.
Source: For The Win