Just as it seemed like I was primed to write a story about how the Brooklyn Nets had the “Eye of the Tiger” and were ready to go the distance, they blew it.
Like Rocky Balboa at the end of Rocky 1, 3 (first act), and 6, the Nets lost 112-108. They lost both games played at the Barclays Center and look unlikely to return this series back to Brooklyn unless a miracle happens.
Philly’s size, overall talent, and poise led them down the stretch to pull out a victory with a hobbled Joel Embiid (who probably should not have played) and an inefficient JJ Redick. Well, until his final shot brought them within striking distance.
At the end of the day, Embiid proved why he is an MVP candidate (when healthy) with 31 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists, and 6 blocks. Best of all, Embiid decided to give some of his three-point attempts to the other Sixer players.
Brooklyn’s lack of playoff experience down the stretch was more reminiscent of Michael Scott, as he fumbled multiple sales calls or botched the moment in the midst of a conference room meeting about diversity, or some other thing.
In fact, Mike Scott was the Nets’ undoing in the final seconds with a go-ahead three-pointer to give Philly the 3-1 series lead heading back home.
Game 4 was a back-and-forth affair that resulted in a role player stealing the limelight and leaves the Nets on the brink searching for answers.
Philadelphia might have been better off to sit Embiid in this game, given the fact they were up 2-1 in the series and need their MVP candidate for the rest of their playoff run. But what do I and the rest of the pundits know as the move paid off (for now)?
The powers that be thought otherwise. Jimmy Butler got Chris Dudley-ed in the third quarter and set up whatever was bound to happen in the last 15 minutes of game time.
Brooklyn on the other hand played as good of a game as they could be expected, getting to the free throw line, making them at a solid clip, and outshooting the Sixers from three-point range.
Yet the Caris LeVert, Deangelo Russell, Jarrett Allen trio could not overcome the Embiid-Ben Simmons-Tobias Harris squad in the long run.
Harris hit timely shots. Simmons didn’t make crucial mistakes. And Embiid’s body held up for this game.
Brooklyn played as well as they could expect. But Joe Harris was not up to the task Saturday (on 4-14 shooting, 0-6 on 3’s) and let’s face it — any team starting Jared Dudley is behind the 8-ball against any team, let alone this Philly squad.
Tuesday, April 23rd is my birthday in fact. The start of my 35th year. And unless Brooklyn finds a counter attack to Philly’s size and timely play-making, I will be finding my second round playoff assignment.
All I want for my birthday is something exciting to write about.