The Sixers’ opening round playoff series versus the Brooklyn Nets returns to Philadelphia for Game 5 on Tuesday night, as Philly holds a 3-1 series lead. The Sixers have won the last three games of the series after dropping the first matchup, and if they are able to make it four straight wins, they’ll advance into round two. The Nets on the other hand cannot afford to look that far ahead. For Brooklyn, it is one game at a time as they hope to at the very least bring the series back home to NYC for Game 6.
Saturday afternoon’s Game 4 was the most competitive meeting of the series between these two teams. The Nets put forth a valiant effort, possessing the lead with as little as 25 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter. And then, everyman Mike Scott drilled a go-ahead three to turn the tide in Philly’s favor. Brooklyn never recovered as the Sixers cemented a 112-108 victory. It was the type of loss that could suck the soul out of a team, so it will be interesting to see how a scrappy Nets squad rebounds in Game 5 — do they continue to fight or do they keel over?
Giving Brooklyn a fighter’s chance in that game was Caris LeVert, who has had an impressive run despite a series that grows ever more lopsided. LeVert appears to be the one member of the Brooklyn Nets that the Sixers can’t find an answer for defensively. He’s averaging 21.8 points on 15.3 FGA per game with an impressive 47.8% from three on nearly 6 treys a game.
Fortunately, the Sixers’ starting lineup has stepped up, rendering LeVert’s efforts manageable. The most notable Sixers performance has arguably been that of Ben Simmons. His renewed intensity has been demonstrably effective and he has showed encouraging signs of countering a Nets’ defense that has elected to sag off of Ben in the halfcourt a la the Boston Celtics in the 2018 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Ben’s enhanced play has allowed the Sixers to take a very cautious approach to Joel Embiid’s workload while he manages knee tendinitis.
Speaking of Embiid and his workload, it would be surprise if his status was anywhere on the better side of a game-time decision for Game 5. Given the Sixers’ commanding series lead and ability to beat Brooklyn without Jo, they could afford to rest him, but it might be more prudent to play him to increase the likelihood that come Wednesday, April 24th, the Sixers can officially lay claim to a second round berth.
With or without the star big, Philly has Brooklyn on the ropes. As they look to deliver the knockout blow, Brett Brown’s squad will have the energy and support of the home crowd behind them. It may be the last game in which Philadelphia can feel confident about what comes next. Toronto holds a comfortable lead over the Orlando Magic in their series, and the paths of the Raptors and the Sixers appear destined to cross. But first, the Sixers need to send Jared Dudley and friends into their offseason.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets
When: Tuesday April 23rd, 8:00 pm EST
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia PA
Watch: TNT, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic