PHILADELPHIA – About an hour before the Philadelphia 76ers kicked off the first game of their series against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, Sixers owner Josh Harris tried to project an air of triumph. But there was something to be wrong with examining his team.
Joel Embiid, center of the force of nature in Philadelphia, was decided at the time of the match because of a left knee tendinitis – the same knee that was operated in 2017 to remove a small part of the frayed meniscus – and who enters the post-season have played 14 games out of 24 since the break of the match of the stars.
"It's been six long years for all of us, but at the end of it all, we've gathered a huge amount of talent and we're really excited to be on the eve of the playoffs with a team that we think we can do . " a playoff race, "Harris said.
Find everything you need to know about the first round of the series here.
But what exactly does "deep race" mean? And if the Sixers do not go deep, what does it mean for their coach, Brett Brown? And what about this collection of talents? If they do not go as far as Harris would hope, will he continue to dig in his pockets to keep the likes of Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick free?
Embiid ended up playing, scoring 22 points on 5 out of 15 shots with 15 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 blocks. But the Sixers were beaten 17 points in 24 minutes and lost 111-102. It did not even seem so tight, as they were followed by 17 people and were booed by local supporters who did not leave earlier – as a treasure of Philly's followers have done in about three minutes.
Now things are getting interesting. Even before the Nets # 6 won the No. 3 Six, a Brooklyn player told ESPN before the match that he liked the chances of his team because "All the pressure is on them".
He is right.
Brooklyn is not the team that has played less than a dozen games with his starting unit together. Brooklyn is not one of four teams widely considered to have a chance to qualify for the finals now that LeBron James is in Los Angeles. Brooklyn is not worried about the health of his star – damn it, the Nets scored 23 points on Caris LeVert and there were doubts earlier in the season if he would be able to contribute in 2018- 19 after his nasty injury to the ankle suffered in November. Brooklyn is not the team with a second star like Ben Simmons who plays the role of goalkeeper in the best basketball league in the world, while having a record of 0 -17 for a career beyond the line of 3 points.
"I'm fine," said Embiid after the match, even though he admitted that he had removed the corset that his team had shaped for his left leg because his calf and shin were painful.
It's hard to say the same thing about his team. It's not time to cancel the Sixers – as noted by Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, Philly split the first two home games in the first round against the Miami Heat in last year's playoffs and went on to win in five games – but it's a tough time for the Sixers.
Embiid is clearly not right. He started the game by punishing the Nets inside – Jarrett Allen was called for two fouls in the first minute – but then drifted out, scoring a 0 to 5 out of 3, and confessed that he was deliberately trying to shoot more jumpers. to save wear on his body.
Butler, who has scored 36 career playoff points with 9 boards, 2 blocks and 2 interceptions, has gone so far as to suggest the big All Star player to come back on the bench to try to get back on track.
"I love Jo for competing," Butler said. "Do not get me wrong, the game is definitely different when it's out – it's a force to be reckoned with, we all know it – we all want it to be smart – I think we're capable of winning [without him]. I think it's a lot easier when he's on the ground, do not get me wrong, but I think health is the most important thing. "
Embiid sometimes winced in dead ball situations and he had the opportunity to assess the state of his body without breathing adrenaline or deafening music at the Wells Fargo Center. He said that he was trying to get his breath back too, having spent most of the past week.
But at least for one day, Brooklyn found a formula that worked against him. According to data compiled by ESPN Stats & Information, he went 1-to-8 when the Nets defended him with Ed Davis. And Davis added 12 points and 16 rebounds, his energy giving Embiid a sometimes lethargic look.
"I will only be referring to fatigue," Brown said. "It's a lot easier to manage a 3-point line with 3-point line than a rim rim. (…) We tried to play it in five-minute groups and maximize that, but even that because of his pace, point of view. "
Joel Embiid By Defender – Match 1 against Nets
|Ed Davis||All the others*|
|* 3-5 (12 pts) when defended by J. Allen|
With two days between games 1 and 2, Embiid will not suddenly find his conditioning. Of course, he could better shoot as the series progresses (just like the Sixers as a whole after getting a poor performance of 3 against 25, Saturday).
Harris and General Manager Elton Brand described Embiid as "a warrior". He has a chance that he drags his left leg up and down the pitch, match after game, and lap after lap, and the Sixers manage to run what their owner asks. Again, there is a chance that he will not do it.
Without Embiid as the centerpiece of the superstar, Philly's entire equation is false. Simmons had only 9 points and 3 assists in the first game and Harris and Redick both scored a disappointing 2-27.
Simmons attacked the fans who let the local team hear it in the first game by saying, "If you're going to boo, stay on that side. That's what I feel. If you're a fan of the Sixers and you're going to boo, stay on that side. "
Nobody wants a low home advantage. But there is an anguish in the air in Philadelphia.
When asked to define where he expected his team to go in the playoffs, Harris tried to go back.
"Let's start by beating the Nets," he said. "But let's go from there."
Philly fans are still waiting for this start.