Stan Van Gundy’s wall is down. The armies of the dead (led by the reanimated corpse of Jared Dudley) are heading towards our city. It’s time for the Philadelphia 76ers to ban together and make a stand. You might say they need to #PhilaUnite.
A win tonight in Game 2 over the Brooklyn Nets would (at least, temporarily) quiet the building controversies swirling around this team as fiercely as the tornado warning that hit Philadelphia in the middle of the night. Plenty of would-be contenders have been slow to start the playoffs and dropped an initial game to a less talented opponent; an eventual five- or six-game series win would allow us to look back and laugh at the time nearly three-quarters of the team failed to show up for a playoff game.
However, lose tonight, and the Sixers are staring down the barrel of an 0-2 series deficit and the prospect of having to win at least two road games this series, a tall order for a team below .500 away from home this season. A couple more showings like Saturday afternoon, and we’re likely in store for a massive roster shake-up, starting with head coach Brett Brown’s dismissal.
Of course, this is the city where Nick Foles once caught the pass, Tom Brady dropped it, and a team from Philadelphia gloriously triumphed over the perceived best team in the sport. Surely the starting five regarded as the second-best unit in the NBA can prevail over a ragtag group hailing from its own city’s second-most popular team?
Let’s examine the good news and bad news from Game 1 and moving forward.
Good news: Brooklyn still has no answer for Joel Embiid on the interior. Jarrett Allen and Ed Davis are too small to contend with JoJo near the rim, and any touch for him around the basket almost inevitably leads to a trip to the free throw line. Feed him like he’s 90’s Shaq.
Bad news: Embiid clearly isn’t 100 percent. Was he hanging around the perimeter so often because he could only take the beating down low in short spurts? His health is a major concern.
Good news: Jimmy Butler has a playoff switch, and Brooklyn does not have anyone capable of preventing Mr. Buckets from getting wherever he wants to go on the floor.
Bad news: Butler dropped a playoff-career-high 36 points, and it still wasn’t nearly enough. He can’t do that every game. He needs help.
Good news: Just as the Sixers aren’t going to shoot 3-of-25 as a team from 3 again, Redick isn’t going to shoot 2-of-7 from the field every game. Even the infamous “Playoff Redick” averages better numbers than what we saw in Game 1. He should regress to the mean in a positive fashion.
Bad news: Redick might as well be wearing a bright orange jersey, because the Nets are treating him like a traffic cone on the other end of the floor. I don’t have a solution here; JJ needs to hit enough shots to offset the points he’s giving up defensively.
Bad news: For the second straight postseason, we’ve seen Ben Simmons approach a playoff game with the passivity of his LSU days when he looked like he wanted to be anywhere else. If Ben wants to model his game after his mentor LeBron James, I’d prefer he didn’t use the version of LeBron from his first Finals against the Mavericks. There are eerie similarities between LeBron not wanting to post up J.J. Barea and whatever the heck Ben is doing.
Good news: Simmons is still an All-Star, and lest we forget, had an excellent postseason series against Miami last spring. It’s in there somewhere. There’s nowhere to go but up after Game 1.
Bad news: Jonathon Simmons had two pretty good games to finish the regular season, convincing Brett Brown that the last few years of terrible play were some sort of prolonged cold spell.
Good news: Zhaire Smith is a shout-down-the-bench away. Make the right decision, Brett.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets
When: 8:00 pm EST
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: TNT; NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic