One star probably should’ve been ejected. One star was ejected.
No matter, the Sixers have Tyrese Maxey.
The 22-year-old guard was huge down the stretch as the Sixers stole a wild win in Brooklyn, 102-97, to take a commanding 3-0 series lead.
This one was scrappy to say the least. Joel Embiid got an early Flagrant 1 (very easily could have been a Flagrant 2) for a kick toward the groin of Nic Claxton as he stepped over him, earning himself a technical. Later, James Harden was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected for what looked like incidental contact during a basketball move to the groin of Royce O’Neale. Claxton picked up his second technical and was ejected in the fourth for taunting Embiid after a dunk.
But, let’s talk actual basketball.
Maxey led the Sixers for the second consecutive game with 25 points. Harden, despite being ejected in the third, followed with 21 points. Tobias Harris had 15 points and Embiid had 14.
Mikal Bridges again led the Nets with 26 points, and he could have had a lot more if he didn’t shoot 35 percent from the floor. Spencer Dinwiddie followed with 20 points and Claxton had 18.
Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.
- It took over two full games, but James Harden earned his first trip to the charity stripe of the series to kick things off for the Sixers.
- Things got scrappy early. After a dunk, Brooklyn’s Nic Claxton stepped over and stared down Embiid. The Sixers’ big man retaliated with a kick toward Claxton’s groin. After a lengthy review, Claxton was given a technical for the step over and Embiid was assessed with a Flagrant 1 foul. The Sixers should feel extremely lucky that he was not tossed.
Joel Embiid just kicked Nic Claxton pic.twitter.com/AlBgrLYL2A— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) April 20, 2023
- Back to basketball. Tyrese Maxey picked up where he left off in Game 2, leading the Sixers with 12 points in the frame on 5-for-7 field goal shooting and two triples. Maxey continues to thrive both from long range and on speedy, aggressive attacks to the rim.
- It felt like the Nets were in control for most of the first quarter, mentally and on the scoreboard, but a few defensive stops combined with the Sixers were able to escape the frame with a narrow lead.
- The Sixers forced a shot clock violation out of the Nets early in the frame, their second of the contest already. The trio of De’Anthony Melton, Jalen McDaniels, and Paul Reed looked extremely effective at switching and help defense.
- Harden started looking a bit more himself in this one after a rough Game 2 for the veteran. Harden was winning isolation buckets over the likes of Mikal Bridges and Claxton, hitting midrange jumpers and sinking step-back triples for 12 points in the half.
- The Nets weren’t exactly lighting it up on offense, shooting 16-for-37 from the floor in the first half. Bridges and Spencer Dinwiddie led the host squad at the break with 13 points each.
- The drama of the first quarter seemed to mostly settle down in the second, and the Sixers extended their lead to 11 at the half.
- The Nets got off to a hot start in the second half, cutting their deficit to just four after a 9-2 run to open the third, prompting a timeout from Sixers’ head coach Doc Rivers. It didn’t help much, as Brooklyn’s run continued until they took the lead out from under the Sixers.
- Embiid is going to be sore after this one. There was more than one occasion that the big man came up limping or wincing after hitting the deck, and he looked completely out of sorts as a result.
- Wait. What just happened?! After what seemed like incidental contact to the groin of Royce O’Neal during a basketball move, Harden was issued a Flagrant 2 and was ejected from the contest with 13 seconds left in the period. He exited with 21 points, five rebounds and four assists.
This got James Harden ejected. An absolute joke. pic.twitter.com/m8T4h61eil— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 21, 2023
- The Sixers’ offense was stagnant for the first half of this period, failing to get anything going towards the rim and settling for contested shots at the perimeter, none of which seemed to fall. They put up just 18 points in the frame and trailed by six headed into the fourth.
- Claxton picked up his second technical and was ejected in the fourth for taunting Embiid after a dunk.
- The Sixers and Nets traded buckets for the majority of the frame, with neither team able to hold a lead of more than a few points.
- Maxey was a hero of the last few minutes. After not scoring at all in the second half, Maxey picked up seven quick points with minutes left to play to tie the game. He then sank a huge triple to take the lead for the Sixers, ultimately winning the contest for Philadelphia.
- Tobias Harris continued to look hot in the playoffs, hitting a clutch three with about seven to play to keep things close. Harris finished with 15 points including two triples. Shoutout to De’Anthony Melton also, who played well on both ends of the floor in this one. He had a few triples, two emphatic dunks, and a steal.
- Philadelphia takes a 3-0 series lead over the Nets, with Game 4 set to tip off in Brooklyn at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday.