Before they square off when the playoffs begin next week, the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets will put a bow on their regular seasons Sunday afternoon inside Barclays Center. The Sixers are 53-28 and locked into the three seed. The Nets are 45-36 and locked into the six seed.
Philadelphia is fifth in net rating (plus-3.9), fifth in offensive rating (118.2) and 11th in defensive rating (114.3). Brooklyn is 11th in net rating (plus-1.4), 14th in offensive rating (115.7) and 12th in defensive rating (114.3). Since Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson joined the team Feb. 11, which was coincidentally against the Sixers, the Nets are 12-14, 19th in net rating (minus-0.8), 23rd in offensive rating (114.5) and 16th in defensive rating (115.3).
Given neither team has seeding at stake and they’ll see each other again next weekend for the postseason, the injury report is abundant. Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, P.J. Tucker and De’Anthony Melton are all out. Georges Niang (left knee soreness) is questionable. Johnson, Seth Curry, Dorian Finney-Smith, Royce O’Neale and Ben Simmons are out for Brooklyn. Nic Claxton, Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris are all listed as questionable with a “rest” designation. Edmond Sumner is also questionable because of a right hip contusion.
Mikal Bridges is not mentioned on the injury report. If he suits up Sunday, he’ll wrap up another perfect season and even earn some extra credit, playing 83 games in 2022-23. The only game he’s missed in his collegiate and NBA career was earlier this year on Feb. 9, fewer than 24 hours after the Kevin Durant trade was finalized. We’re not counting that one!
With the Sixers’ top six rotation players out, along with Niang possibly, this is another showcase for guys like Jaden Springer, Jalen McDaniels and Danuel House Jr. All of them enjoyed a sizable role in Friday’s come-from-behind overtime victory against the Atlanta Hawks. Springer received his first career NBA start and shined, tallying 19 points, three assists, two rebounds, one steal and one dime, as well as this crunch-time stop versus All-Star Trae Young:
Jaden Springer is 20 years old and this is his first game getting real minutes pic.twitter.com/32Ruefpztr— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) April 8, 2023
I’m intrigued to see what Springer does for an encore. McDaniels, meanwhile, was a star alongside Niang. The rangy swingman logged 24 points (8-of-17 shooting), 11 rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block, while splashing home two triples. House added 22 points, three assists, three rebounds and one steal. Both of them give the Sixers welcomed, sprightly athleticism, defensive chops and mobility at the wing spots. I wouldn’t be surprised if either emerges as a fixture on the backend of the playoff rotation. Beyond Melton, bench minutes don’t seem like a foregone conclusion for anyone.
Point Shake Milton will presumably be back after he ran the show Friday. He struggled as a shooter (7-of-22, 15 points), but handed out 16 assists (four turnovers), including the most important assist of the game:
GOODNIGHT ATLANTA! https://t.co/XjfaahIQvT pic.twitter.com/ejzfinkJSR— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 8, 2023
The one a minute prior was quite snazzy, too:
BANG BANG @GeorgesNiang20!! pic.twitter.com/Y6ZiwkUM6u— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 8, 2023
On the Nets’ end, expect a heavy dose of Cam Thomas, David Duke Jr., Day’Ron Sharpe, Dru Smith and Yuta Watanabe. I’d also bet Bridges’ pull-up jumpers will be the go-to source of offense, just as they’ve been since his arrival two months ago.
The circumstances of this game are quite funny. The entire Eastern Conference playoff and play-in field are set. Plenty of teams around the league probably don’t feel incentivized much by their final regular season contest. But the Philadelphia-Brooklyn bout is especially that way, with both teams set in their seedings and slated to face off in the first round a week later. Friday’s game brought the fun and funk, just as I requested in that preview. Hopefully, Sunday is the same between these Atlantic Division foes.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets
When: 1 p.m. EST, Sunday, April 9
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic