**UPDATE: As of 1:05pm EST, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant is OUT for this game along with James Harden per multiple sources.**
No Durant, Harden, Griffin, or Aldridge for the Nets tonight— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) April 14, 2021
Tied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference at 37-17.
The home team (your Philadelphia 76ers) are 20-5 at home.
The away team (those Brooklyn Nets) are 15-10 at home.
Between the two teams, there are multiple NBA All-Star appearances. This game SHOULD be an epic pre-playoff tip in what could be an Eastern Conference Finals preview.
It may not be as epic because of the injury report of one of the teams playing. (And for once, it’s not the Sixers I’m referencing.) Since the Nets traded for James Harden, there’s been this desire to see both of these teams play at full strength.
Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden versus Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris.
We have yet to see this.
Durant was injured for most of the season. Irving (who has played the most games for Brooklyn and averaging a career high 27.6 points) and Harden (averaging 25.4 points and 11 assists) have led the way while KD recovers.
Harden is out for tonight’s game so he can recover from a hamstring injury. Right now, Irving is listed as a “game-time decision” — which has been a recurring theme with “Uncle Drew” this season. As a result, it looks like it’s the Kevin Durant Show with Joe Harris, Bruce Brown, and whatever is left of Blake Griffin at this point. (LaMarcus Aldridge is also a game-time decision.)
First-year coach Steve Nash has had a bit of a target on his back to make this work, and he has done so to this point. The Nets are second in the league in points per game (118.7) and third in ORtg (118.1). Much like a coach he played for, however, the defense has not been stellar (24th in Opp PPG and 25th in DRtg). You can overcome that when you have three top-15 players in your starting five, I guess.
As a result, this game is going to be quite the test for the Sixers defense (which is currently second in the league in DRtg). They are fresh off of a 113-95 win in Dallas, and future NBA Defensive Player of the Year Ben Simmons had another good night, defensively, against another All-Star in Luka Dončić. (Yeah, I know Luka finished with 32, but that game was well in hand before he had 20 points.)
Brooklyn is playing their second night of a back-to-back after defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves handily last night by a score of 127-97. In that game, Durant finished with 37 points, and Joe Harris hit five of eight 3s to score 23. Former Sixers guard Landry Shamet nailed five of nine 3s to tally 19 points in the win.
Once again, we won’t see how the Sixers defense will match up against a fully armed and operational Nets team. Figuring out what the best defensive assignment for Durant will be is going to be educational, however. If Tobias does … decent … you might see him as the main defender so that Ben Simmons can defend Harden or Kyrie Irving.
It will also be important to see how the Nets will defend Joel Embiid. In the last meeting of the two teams, Embiid had 33 points in 31 minutes. 12 of those points came at the free throw line simply because Brooklyn had no answers for him.
Danny Green has been RED HOT for the Sixers as of late, and having that as a kickout option (along with Seth Curry and Furkan Korkmaz) when Embiid sees a double team has been exponentially beneficial all season long.
It’s not the Conference Finals preview we want to see because of the injuries to Brooklyn, but there are still things that the Sixers need to learn and get used to. More preparation to get ready for a possible playoffs showdown definitely doesn’t hurt at all.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets
When: 7:00pm ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic