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Sixers and Nets set to tip off for Game 1

The 2023 postseason is upon us!

Brooklyn Nets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

We’ve made it to the playoffs! The Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets are set to open up the 2023 postseason, kicking off for an early afternoon tip-off at 1 p.m. EST in South Philly.

This is a somewhat intriguing first-round matchup, as these teams haven’t really faced off against each other much at all — especially for being in the same division. Their first two matchups of the regular season featured an entirely different Nets group featuring Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving; both whom are now on different teams.

The two other games played offer very little background in a potential matchup between both teams. The third matchup, played right after the trade deadline, was one of Brooklyn’s first games with its new additions — Spencer Dinwiddie, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and Dorian Finney-Smith. The final game between these teams was the regular season finale which featured the end-of-bench guys for both teams getting extended burn.

It’s hard to win after a major roster shakeup, especially trading a MVP-caliber player — which is part of the reason the Nets have been under .500 since trading KD. Since the trade, they’ve gone 13-15, had the 17th-best defense, the 23rd-best offense, and the 19th-best net rating. The stats suggest that this team has been very middle-of-the-pack since shaking things up.

Still, there’s a solid collection of good talent to be found on this roster. Bridges has been excellent since arriving on the East Coast, averaging nearly 27 points per game in a newfound, larger role. Johnson, who arrived with Bridges, has also quietly been putting up strong numbers, averaging 17 points per game on good efficiency.

There’s more proven producers as you go down their roster: Dinwiddie, Royce O’Neale, Nic Claxton, Seth Curry, and Finney-Smith to name a few.

On the Sixers’ side of things I’ll primarily be watching two things: The Joel Embiid-Claxton matchup, and how Tyrese Maxey and James Harden handle their abundance of lengthy, athletic perimeter defenders.

Embiid has matched up against Claxton twice this season, struggling in their first matchup and dominating in the second one. Claxton gives up a lot of size for a big, but he can present problems as a good switch defender. Embiid getting him in foul trouble early on could really make a difference as the Nets’ backup bigs are shaky at best.

We’ll get a good feel for how Harden is feeling physically with this matchup. The Nets have a ton of length and athleticism, which should test Harden and Maxey. Assuming they take care of business, this series should be a good preview for Boston — who also has no shortage of wing talent.

After practice Friday, Harden commented that he’s feeling good heading into the postseason compared to last year:

All of the Sixers’ starting core should be well rested with roughly a week and a half off. Let’s hope they set the pace early and take care of business in what should be a relatively easy first-round matchup.

Game Details

Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets

When: 1:00 pm EST, Saturday, April 15th

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA

Watch: ESPN, NBC Philly

Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

Follow: @LibertyBallers

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