Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Instant analysis: Sixers drop ugly Game 1 to Nets

Dave Uram
April 13, 2019 - 5:19 pm

I hate to say I told you so, but I knew it was going to go down like this. While my prediction of “Sixers in 6” stands, a Game 1 loss for the 76ers was inevitable. ​

No reason to sugarcoat this one—Saturday afternoon was flat out ugly for the 76ers, who lost to the Nets in Game 1, 111-102. 

One team, the Sixers, looked anything like a playoff team to close the regular season, while the Nets rode tremendous momentum of exceeding the expectations of most to make their first postseason after a three year absence. 

Not to mention, if it wasn’t for a Jimmy Butler buzzer beating three in Brooklyn and the Nets going through an insanely ridiculous seven-game road trip late in the season, you could make the argument Brooklyn would’ve swept the four-game regular season series. If that happened, how many of you would predict “Sixers in 5,” as it feels like was the case a lot after this postseason matchup was set in stone. 

Here are observations to what needs to be a wakeup call for Brett Brown’s squad. 

Sixers “Phab 5” Anything But

Elton Brand may think talent trumps cohesion, but it clearly doesn’t. The Sixers starting five looked like a unit that played 10 games together prior to the postseason. Their ball movement wasn’t anything special, they weren’t creating quality shots and, no surprise, they couldn’t play team defense. 

On the other hand, Brooklyn looked like a team that had been building something, despite 42 regular season wins. After what appeared to be some early, but natural, postseason butterflies, the Nets calmed down and displayed an offense that flowed, a quite frankly out hustled the Sixers to every situation, whether it was a drive, loose ball or jump shot attempt. 

It’s also worth noting that Brooklyn’s bench was more engaged in the game than the Sixers bench. Now, you may say, ‘no duh,’ based on how things were going score wise, but the Nets looked like a happy family having fun. The Sixers didn’t. That matters. 

Butler Carried the Sixers 

If it wasn’t for Butler, the Sixers probably would’ve been down 30 at halftime, and fans would’ve had a legitimate reason to leave early to beat traffic. 

He was the only effective starter offensively, reaching the 30-point mark in the third quarter. His buzzer beating three at halftime put the Sixers down eight after trailing by double digits a good portion of the first half. He gave the crowd some life, as well as the team. Only problem was, his teammates didn’t use that “life” to add significant contributions other than Butler’s. 

Embiid needed to stop jacking so many 3’s 

Despite being doubtful yesterday afternoon, Joel Embiid played. He was dominant early, going to the foul line four different times in the early minutes. But then, he started jacking three’s, taking more shots from distance than where his bread and butter is made in the paint. Maybe that’s a result of the tendinitis in his left knee. Maybe it was because the Nets were leaving him open (smart move by them). Either way, he had little lift on his jump shot, to the point where fans were becoming restless with his attempts. 

Sixers Couldn’t Throw A Rock Into The Ocean

By the end of the first quarter, the Sixers were shooting six-of-25 from the floor and zero-of-nine from distance, while Brooklyn was nine-of-22 (not great), but five-of-eight from three, which is sensational. At halftime, the Nets were eight-of-15 from distance, while the Sixers were two-of-14, with the lone two coming from Mike Scott and Butler’s halftime buzzer beater. 

Simmons Not Aggressive Enough. Period. 

Nets reserve Jared Dudley told WFAN in New York this week that their plan was to back off Ben Simmons and make him shoot. Good strategy, but that’s no excuse for Simmons to be as invisible as he was offensively, shooting one-of-five in the first half for only two points, with zero foul shots. 

Not getting to the charity stripe was the worst part of that stat line. He didn’t display the aggression an All-Star typically shows. At one point in the first half, he passed up a close look to try and squeeze a tight pass to Tobias Harris, and it failed miserably, to the point where you could hear the crowd’s frustration that Simmons didn’t shoot the ball. 

That type of sloppiness were displayed throughout the game by Simmons, turning the ball over late in the fourth quarter when he could’ve gone to the hoop and tried to get fouled, instead hearing a chorus of boos, which were directed at him multiple times. 

Teams won’t respect Simmons’ offensive game unless he keeps them honest with an aggressive attack. 

JJ and Tobi Were Awful As Well 

While Simmons struggled, the Sixers also got nothing form fellow starters JJ Redick and Harris. Redick fouled out with 5 minutes, 11 seconds to go int he fourth quarter, scoring only five points on two-of-seven overall and one-of-four from three-point range, his lone successful three coming early in the fourth quarter. 

Harris’ funk throughout the second half of the season continued. 

Russell, Dinwiddie and LeVert Couldn’t Be Stopped 

A lot was made about D’Angelo Russell’s and Spencer Dinwiddie’s offensive ability leading into this series, and rightly so. But, some were forgetting to talk about Caris LeVert, who before a serious injury earlier this season, was lighting up the box score. That talent showed in the first half, as LeVert scored a team high 16 points by the break, on five-of-eight from the floor and two-of-two from three-point range. He’s good and needs to be respected as much as Russell and Dinwiddie. 

After a slow start, Russell got going, and Dinwiddie was his usual solid self. And for some puzzling reason, Boban Marjanovic found himself switched on Dinwiddie twice, and Jonah Bolden did once, this after Bolden was on the bench for the entirety of the first three quarters. 

Yeah, something needs to change with how the Sixers play defense. Wait, haven’t I heard that this season already? 

Free Throw Shooting Atrocious 

Sixers were 29-of-42 from the foul line. That's 13 points. Sixers lost by nine. It adds up. 

Why Jonathon Simmons over Zhaire? 

Jonathon Simmons couldn’t find the floor in the latter stages of the regular season, yet Brown played him 11 minutes compared to Zhaire Smith’s one minute. How in the world did Simmons jump Smith on the depth chart after his only significant playing time came in the regular season finale against Chicago’s reserves? 

Fans Booed Sixers in First Half 

The 76ers went 31-10 in the regular season at Wells Fargo Center, thus the capacity crowds had much more to cheer about than not. 

Unless I’m mistaken, this was the first time all season they voiced their boos, loudly, a lot, and at one point directed solely at Simmons after he missed a pair of foul shots. 

A small selection of fans hit the exits with half the fourth quarter left to play. Why waste a perfectly good Saturday night with this debacle? 

Their frustration is warranted. Their voices were heard loud and clear. They needed to be. This team needs a wakeup call. I still believe the Sixers will take it in six, but things need to improve drastically.