Philadelphia 76ers (3) vs. Brooklyn Nets (6)
The Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets were not teams many were predicting would be squaring off in a playoff matchup just several seasons ago, but with The Process coming to fruition in Philadelphia and the focus on player development in Brooklyn, both teams are ready for the postseason.
The 76ers and Nets split their four-game regular season series. The first game was a 122-97 blowout by the Nets against a 76ers team without Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. In the final matchup of the regular season series, Philadelphia won 123-110. The 76ers built up an early 20-point lead and then went on a late rally to secure the win. This was the best preview of the teams at full health. Philly was able to limit D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie, and Embiid showed how dominant he can be with 39 points and 13 rebounds.
There’s no getting around the fact that there is a talent disparity here, but the Nets aren’t in the playoffs by accident. Brooklyn can shoot the ball and they are deep with the second-highest scoring second unit in the league, with Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LaVert providing a lot of the scoring punch. Philadelphia has had trouble guarding the pick-and-roll, but if Embiid misses few games, they have to feel good about their matchup, especially since Philadelphia provides such perplexing mismatches Kenny Atkinson will have to gameplan for.
Series TV Schedule
Game 1: Sat, April 13 Brooklyn at Philadelphia, 2:30 ET, ESPN
Game 2: Mon, April 15 Brooklyn at Philadelphia, 8 ET, TNT
Game 3: Thu, April 18 Philadelphia at Brooklyn, 8 ET, TNT
Game 4: Sat, April 20 Philadelphia at Brooklyn, 3 ET, TNT
Games 5-7 TBD if necessary
Philadelphia 76ers Starting Lineup
*Listed as doubtful for Game 1.
Brooklyn Nets Starting Lineup
Key Player Matchups
PG: Ben Simmons vs. D’Angelo Russell
Edge Even. This has to be one of the better matchups in this series, with the former high school teammates facing off. While Russell will likely spend more time on Jimmy Butler, he’ll get his time on Simmons. This is definitely too close to call.
SG – J.J. Redick vs. Joe Harris
Slight edge to Philadelphia. A matchup of two of the best sharpshooters in the league should be a good one to watch, but Redick brings a bit more on defense, and after Harris has to chase him around the court on one end, the former Duke Blue Devil will look to make life tough for the three-point champion on the other end.
SF – Jimmy Butler vs. Rodions Kurucs
Edge Philadelphia. Just months ago, not many people knew who Rodions Kurucs was, but he made a splash in his rookie campaign. He’s a long, rangy three who can shoot, put the ball on the floor and rebound well, but the rookie will have to adjust to the NBA postseason, and part of that will be dealing with a pesky defender like Jimmy Butler for an entire series.
PF – Tobias Harris vs. DeMarre Carroll
Edge Philadelphia. DeMarree Carroll is a nice defender Atkinson can throw at Harris, but Harris is far too skilled with offensive tools all over the floor for Carroll to contend with for a full series.
C – Joel Embiid vs. Jarrett Allen
Edge Philadelphia. This matchup could be closer at first if the 76ers have to start Boban Marjanovic if Embiid can’t go, but once Embiid is in the lineup, as much as I like Allen’s game, this one isn’t close. Embiid has been dominant against the Nets and I don’t see that stopping now.
Coach: Brett Brown vs. Kenny Atkinson
Slight edge Philadelphia. Brown and Atkinson are two of the best player development coaches in the league and what they have built has been special. Brown just has the shinier tools in his took bags and several seasons with his core players. How these coaches adjust from game to game should be a fun one to watch.
Bench: Edge Nets. The 76ers have some nice pieces on their bench, but several of them came to Philadelphia at the trade deadline and one was injured all season, which means they haven’t had a chance to really carve out consistent roles, whereas the Nets have one of the better second units in the league. Aside from Dinwiddie and LeVert, the Nets also have Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Ed Davis, Allen Crabbe and Shabazz Napier that also play big roles off their bench. This will be Brooklyn’s best opportunity to try to make a dent in this series.
Joel Embiid – So much of how this series plays out will depend on the status of Embiid’s knee. With him playing big minutes, the Nets just do not have an answer for him. He averaged 30 points, 14 rebounds and five assists per game against the Nets this season, and if healthy, he can dominate this series.
Depth – There isn’t just one X-factor for Brooklyn. As stated above, the Nets’ bench gives them their best mismatch in this series. They can easily go 10-deep with the talent they have in their second unit and they are guard-heavy, which has plagued Philadelphia’s defense this year. It all starts with Dinwiddie and LeVert being consistent game-to-game, but the other players will have to do their part when Embiid, Simmons, and Butler are resting.
76ers in 6. The Embiid injury will make this closer than it has to be, but Philadelphia has too much talent in the end. If Embiid comes back earlier, he will terrorize Brooklyn’s front line, but look for D’Angelo Russell to make this interesting.
For more predictions on this and every series, visit our 2019 NBA Playoff Prediction Roundup.