Sixers Playoff Bell Ringer standings
James Harden - 1
Tyrese Maxey - 1
The Philadelphia 76ers came into Brooklyn with a 2-0 series lead over the Nets. Exactly like last year, they headed into hostile territory looking for a mostly insurmountable 3-0 first-round series lead.
One year ago, they got just that after a Joel Embiid game-winning triple up North:
Tonight they would look to replicate some of that 2022 magic, knowing that Jacque Vaughn’s group led by Mikal Bridges would be out for blood.
Let’s get to tonight’s bell ringer.
Joel Embiid: 14 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal
This was an absolutely brutal game for the presumptive MVP. I don’t mean that he didn’t play well, although it was not his best showing. I mean it was violent. It was painful. There were a lot of scary falls.
Vaughn has been running the Nick Nurse playbook to a tee — lobbying for calls, encouraging his guys to hit hard, and using MMA metaphors about stepping into the octagon. He’s talked about how “you got to hit somebody. If you want to win, you’ll hit somebody,” if you want to win those rebounding battles.
And in both Game 2 and in Game 3, we saw some of that manifest from Vaughn’s guys.
Claxton has had enough of this MVP buzz just takes a hard shot into Joel’s lower back pic.twitter.com/6qQ5zZxNNH— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) April 18, 2023
Right from the get go in this one, Claxton, who has a history of going back-and-forth with Joel, looked like he wanted to get inside Embiid’s head and maybe get him ejected:
Embiid kicks Claxton after trying to step over him pic.twitter.com/l23qaOFvHV— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) April 20, 2023
Claxton stepped over Joel after a play at the rim and got the Sixers star to fling a kick, drawing a Flagrant 1. Luckily for Philadelphia Embiid was not ejected. It wouldn’t have been surprising if he was after the Draymond Green incident; you wouldn’t have been stunned if the NBA wanted to deter that type of stuff.
But that was only the start of it, as later the Nets would make it a point to put Jo on his butt. Early and often.
Doc Rivers guessed the reason Embiid left the floor for the locker room was because of his back from one of those hard falls.— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) April 21, 2023
Embiid only shot 5-of-13, and also had 5 turnovers, taking a ton of punishment. But his mere presence drew double-teams and garnered tons of attention which allowed him to make the right reads, and get some hockey assists. He helped Philly hold the Nets to just 97 points. It’s the second time this series they’ve held Brooklyn under 100. Embiid’s defense is turned up.
He went to the locker room to get attention for his lower back after yet another hard shot from Claxton in this game. And then later would appear to be limping on his right knee after very a scary fall.
Much like after that 2022 Game 3 dagger he hit, we’ll await word on his health status. Sixers fans no doubt recall learning Embiid suffered ligament damage in his shooting thumb after he put them up 3-0 over Toronto last playoff.
Today, it was this scary fall that we’ll hold our breath about until we learn more:
A look an a very scary fall for Embiid. This has been the most dangerous game of the season for him it appears. Right knee is the concern. pic.twitter.com/IZpd0IsNYi— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) April 21, 2023
But Joel would finish the game, despite favoring his knee, and even help put it away with this absolutely ridiculous, DPOY-type block (we see you Doris Burke) on Spencer Dinwiddie:
Joel finished with the highest +/- among starters with a +4. And he wasn’t his usual self, but it was good enough on this night to beat the frisky and vicious Nets.
Tyrese Maxey: 25 points, 3 assists, 5-of-8 from distance
Tyrese Maxey is him. What else can you say? Embiid could have easily gotten himself ejected, trying to kick Claxton. James Harden did get ejected on a ludicrous makeup call for that. So Maxey knew he had to step up and he did. The man who assistant coach Sam Cassell refers to as his protege, delivered on five triples. He now has 14 triples in this series, and 11 in the last two ballgames.
Maxey slashed, he stepped back, he finished in traffic, he hit pull-ups. And every time you hear these Harden may want to leave for Houston rumors, you can at least remember how awesome Maxey has developed, and how much he seems to shine on the brightest stages.
Everybody say thank you to Tyrese for saving this one:
Maxey followed up, perhaps, his best ever two-way performance in Game 2 with another absolute gem. He’s just killing this Nets team, and as concerned as they are with Embiid, they have no real solution for his relentless onslaught.
HIM.— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 21, 2023
Tyrese Maxey just referred to himself and De’Anthony Melton as the “best friends” on the Sixers lol— Adam Aaronson (@SixersAdam) April 21, 2023
We are all BFF’s when Maxey is involved.
James Harden: 21 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds, 3-of-7 from deep, ejected!
It seemed as if Harden had read some of the many articles written over the last few days that he was not finishing at the rim. He seemed hellbent early on in this game at getting to the cup.
Harden was 5-of-8 inside the three-point arc tonight. He had come in just 2-of-13 from that zone prior. So signs of progress there for those overly concerned that maybe he’s not fully healthy, or at least rusty from rehabbing his ailing Achilles.
The Beard wasn’t fully in command of the offense, as he did defer to others more than he has at points this season. But that’s not always a bad thing as it keeps players like De’Anthony Melton, Tobias Harris, and of course Maxey involved and in attack-mode.
Interestingly, the Sixers were outscored by 15 when James was on the court. But I thought it was a solid and promising performance with hopefully something to build upon for Game 4.
And the best news, we sneaked in some in-game load management with his ludicrous ejection! He only played 29 minutes because the Tony Brothers-led crew sent him packing for... this super basic off-arm push:
It’s laughable James Harden got ejected for this. These knucklehead refs should be ejected instead. pic.twitter.com/EkA7HKqGGm— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) April 21, 2023
As The Ringer’s KOC says, the officials should have been ejected for their performance this evening. Now we wait word on Joel’s lower back and knee, as little else matters after a thrilling road win.
Embiid playfully pushes Maxey after the win. You know he loves that guy. Clutch City.
Who is the Bell Ringer for the Sixers’ Game 3 win over the Nets?
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