PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia 76ers stomped the Brooklyn Nets out in Game 1 of their opening series in the 2023 NBA playoffs. The Sixers let the Nets shoot very well but completely controlled the possession battle and won easily. Joel Embiid was the centerpiece of their win, even though the stats don’t show it.
The Nets were quick to throw a second defender at Embiid all game long, forcing him to pick up the ball and denying him a path to the hoop. Embiid scored 26 points on 7-15 shooting, a well below-average scoring output for the Sixers superstar. He only had three assists. Still, his poise and sense of attacking quickly played massive roles in the Sixers’ 121-101 win.
“Just keeping it simple,” Joel Embiid said when asked what led to his success against the Nets’ double-teams. “Every single possession they just kept doubling. It didn’t matter where I was — half court, three-point line, post. So, I just gotta trust my teammates. Gotta make the simple pass, simple plays and we took advantage of that scheme.”
Embiid’s improvements against double teams have flown a bit under the radar amid his unreal scoring season. Aided by a relocation to the nail instead of the low post, the Sixers superstar has shown growth as a playmaker when the defense sends multiple bodies at him. Several times throughout the game, he sensed when another defender was coming and swung the ball out to the perimeter.
“They just doubled. They were running all over the place. Our game plan was, especially for me, to just invite the double team and make plays for my teammates,” Embiid said. “Same thing for James [Harden]. Any time there was a dribble penetration, he made the right play every single time.”
Harden’s incredible shooting (7-13 from deep) and playmaking (13 assists) helped the Sixers set a franchise record for threes in a single playoff game. P.J. Tucker spearheaded a fantastic, gritty effort from the whole team by recording five steals and five offensive rebounds. Embiid not having to go superhuman to win the game was critical for Philly, which will have to be ready for Brooklyn’s defensive adjustments in Game 2.
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