Monday, October 2 2023

After clinching the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, the Brooklyn Nets (45-37) will be facing the third-seeded Philadelphia 76ers (54-28) in the first round of the NBA playoffs. This will be a rematch of the first round of the 2019 Eastern Conference playoffs between the two teams in which Philadelphia won that series 4-1.

Brooklyn comes into this series having had one of the more interesting seasons in the NBA this season. To begin this season, the Nets had Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as their two best players and had Steve Nash as their head coach. Once the trade deadline, the transition of the team from the superstar era to the future was complete.

Philadelphia comes into this series having been one of the best in the league throughout the season. Joel Embiid has played at such a high level that he may finally win the league MVP award that some have argued that he has deserved for quite some time now. With that being said, here are some things to look out for when the series begins on Saturday:

Battle of the bigs

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Even though there will be more to the series than just the matchup of Nic Claxton against Joel Embiid, it will possibly be the most important factor given how good Embiid is. In two games against the Nets this season, Embiid averaged 31.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game while shooting 50% from the field. When he gets the ball, Embiid is scoring or getting to the foul line if Brooklyn does not double-team him or send help immediately.

Can Mikal Bridges be a #1 option?

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Mikal Bridges has turned into a star ever since he came to Brooklyn in the Kevin Durant trade. In 27 games, the former Villanova Wildcat averaged 26.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 47.5% from the field and 37.6% from three-point land. As the primary scoring option for a rebuilding Nets team, Bridges has shown that he has the capability of being a high-volume scorer while remaining efficient. This series will be a glimpse into if Bridges can do it at the highest level.

Brooklyn stopping James Harden

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James Harden has gone a metamorphosis of sorts since his days as a Houston Rocket. Harden isn’t scoring as much as he used to in those days, but since being traded to Brooklyn, Harden has found a nice balance between the two by scoring enough points to keep opponents honest while making a larger impact creating opportunities for his teammates. Where defending Harden becomes important is the damage he can wreak on the Nets’ defense if left unchecked. Brooklyn has to make Harden one-dimensional if possible given their struggles defending star guards on the perimeter in general.

Series prediction

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Given the disparity in star power between the two teams, it’s obvious that Philadelphia is the better squad. Even Brooklyn has arguably more depth now than they did with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the issue now is that their ceiling is lower when Mikal Bridges is your best player. Not to mention that Joel Embiid will wreak havoc on the interior of an already-small team in the Nets. The 76ers will win in five games.

Story originally appeared on Nets Wire

Source: Yahoo Sports


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