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Sixers travel to Brooklyn to face new-look Nets

Can they push the win streak to two?

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Wow, how circumstances have changed since the last time the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets faced off 2.5 weeks ago. Matisse Thybulle is now with the Portland Trail Blazers and Jalen McDaniels has joined Philadelphia. Ha Ha Hee Hee Hoo Hoo. In reality, both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant have been traded West, as well as Markieff Morris and TJ Warren. Although Durant didn’t play against the Sixers on Jan. 30, Irving did and delighted to the tune of 30 points and 10 assists on 15 shots. A week later, he’d asked out of Brooklyn and was moved shortly after.

Replacing those stars on the Nets are the group of Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson. Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith made their 2022-23 Nets debut on Thursday in a 116-105 home win over the Chicago Bulls. Dinwiddie rocked out with 25 points, six assists and five rebounds. Finney-Smith added nine points and nine boards. While neither Bridges nor Johnson suited up, given the Durant trade first broke a mere 18ish hours prior, both were in attendance at Barclays Center.

Both Bridges and Johnson are listed as available. Seth Curry is out due to a left adductor strain. Nicolas Claxton is also available, despite dealing with right hamstring tightness, according to the 1:30 p.m. EST injury report. Joel Embiid, per usual, is questionable with left foot soreness. Louis King, Jaden Springer and Justin Champagnie are all on assignment in the G League.

The Nets enter this game 33-22 and fifth in the West. They’re 2.5 games behind the Sixers for third. They rank 10th in offensive rating (116.2), 12th in defensive rating (113.8) and seventh in net rating (plus-2.4). Philadelphia is eighth in offensive rating (116.4), seventh in defensive rating (113.0) and sixth in net rating (plus-3.4).

It’s hard to provide a firm scouting report on the Nets because this group hasn’t played together yet. But offensively, the attack will presumably center around Dinwiddie’s driving game and their bevy of shooters. They’re a switch-heavy team with both primary bigs, Claxton and Ben Simmons, comfortable defending on the perimeter. But their lack of true interior size creates problems on the glass. Brooklyn is 30th in offensive rebounding rate and 28th in defensive rebounding rate. Unlike the Boston Celtics, it also fouls a ton, placing 22nd in opposing free-throw rate, which should behoove the Sixers, the second-ranked free-throw rate team.

With Bridges available, it’ll be interesting to see if the Nets deviate a bit from the switch-all approach and try to keep him tethered to James Harden, who delivered repeatedly in crunch-time when these teams last met. Bridges finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season and is among the league’s premier perimeter stoppers.

Embiid found a lot of quality looks in last month’s win, but struggled to hit them, going 6-of-18 from the floor. He did, however, get to the line for 13 free throws and buried all of them. Philadelphia’s young guard duo, De’Anthony Melton and Tyrese Maxey, were superb in the Jan. 25 victory. Melton capitalized on all the attention Brooklyn granted Harden and Embiid, scoring 19 points and converting 3 of his 6 triples. He also tallied three rejections and a steal. Fresh off 27 points and five long balls in Friday’s win over the New York Nets, Maxey will look to keep his momentum going and repeat his last outing against the Nets, when he scored 27 points and netted six threes.

Saturday marks Harden’s first game in Brooklyn since the trade a year ago. It’s probably lost some luster with both Durant and Irving donning different colors now, but the Nets remain a good team, even if subdued from their pre-trade caliber. This is a chance for the Sixers to build some momentum following a bumpy week and a half, while also distancing themselves in the standings against a fellow playoff contender.

Game Details

Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets

When: 6 p.m. EST

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York

Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia

Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

Follow: @LibertyBallers

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