As the NBA Playoffs begin this weekend, one of the most competitive first round match-ups looks to be between the Sixers facing off with the Brooklyn Nets. The two teams split the season series, each winning one game on the road and one game at home. The most recent match-up saw the Sixers dominate the Nets to a score of 123-110 at home on March 28th. Brooklyn was a team I feared the Sixers could match up with in the first round and they have the talent to give the Sixers a run for their money and also stretch the series. In the month of January, the Nets had an overall record of 11-4 and finished the season on a three-game winning streak including big wins on the road against Milwaukee and Indiana. The Sixers are obviously the clear favorites in this series but this Brooklyn team should not be taken lightly. They have the talent and energy to make this series difficult for the Sixers to win.
Key Players to Watch
D’Angelo Russell Point Guard
After a slump sophomore season in 2017, the Lakers traded Russell to Brooklyn and since then his career had gone a complete 180. He leads the team in points, assists, and steals averaging 21.1 points, 7 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game. He will be likely matched up with Ben Simmons which could make him vulnerable on the defensive end. Overall, his play will determine the fate of this series. If he does not play up to his potential, this will be a quick four or five game series where the Sixers dominate. But, if he can show up with the ice in his veins, the Nets could stretch it to six or seven games.
Jarrett Allen Center
Allen enters his first career playoff game as the Nets starting center. He was drafted with the 22nd pick overall in the 2017 NBA Draft and leads the team this season with 8.4 rebounds a game. Allen is a young big with tons of potential but does not have anywhere near the talent of Joel Embiid. He could be a bigger threat on the court though if the Sixers are forced to match him up against Boban Marjanovic or Greg Monroe if Joel Embiid (knee) is unable to play to start off the series.
Joel Embiid – Center
Embiid is easily the best player on the court but may be forced out of the first few games due to an aggravating knee injury he’s dealt with for most of the season. He leads the Sixers with 27.5 points per game and 13.6 rebounds per game while also having the hottest girlfriend on the team in Brazilian Instagram model Anne De Paula (sorry, not a fan of Kendall Jenner). If he is out for the first two games in Philly, this gives the Nets a great opportunity to steal a game before heading back to Brooklyn and making this a competitive series. Philly, please keep Joel in your prayers.
Jimmy Butler – Small Forward/Shooting Guard
Many could argue for Ben Simmons to be here but I believe the fate of the series will truly depend on the play of Butler. The Sixers gave up a lot to acquire Butler and he must play up to his expectations for the team to have success in the postseason. In 55 games for the team this season, Butler lead the team on the defensive end with 1.8 steals per game to go along with 18.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.0 assists a game. His performance on the defensive end will be crucial for the Sixers can take control of the series in the first few games.
The outcome of this series will come down to the heath of Joel Embiid. If Embiid is able to play at 100% for the whole series, the Sixers should be able to cruise in an easy five. If Embiid is forced out of the first few games, there is a very good chance the Sixers could be in for a long series or even at risk of an early elimination. After Embiid’s performance at practice on Friday afternoon, it appears his injury is not as severe as some believed but this could change leading up to game time. If he is able to play at 100% entering the series, the Sixers should have no trouble winning the series.
My Prediction: The Process dominates, Sixers in five. Thank You Sam.