Monday, October 2 2023

The Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets will begin their first round playoff series on Saturday with Game 1 from the Wells Fargo Center in South Philly. The Sixers will be looking to get off on the right foot as they prepare for what they expect to be a deep playoff run.

The Sixers are heavy favorites over the Nets in this series and it’s understandable. They are led by a powerful star duo in Joel Embiid and James Harden and they are expected to make quick work of the Nets who have solid players, but no star power.

In this preview edition, it’s time to break down each position and see who has the edge. From the starters down to the bench unit, it’s time to examine and give the advantage to either side.

Point guard: James Harden vs. Spencer Dinwiddie

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Harden quietly had one of his best seasons in his first full year in Philadelphia. He led the league in assists at 10.7, still averaged a solid 21 points, and he shot a career-high 38.5% from deep. The question is going to be the left Achilles soreness that was hampering him at the end of the season, but considering he hasn’t played since April 6, one has to figure he is well-rested and ready to go for the playoffs.

Dinwiddie will give Harden some trouble. He is a guy who can score in bunches, he can knock down big shots, and his size is a big advantage for Brooklyn. It will be interesting to see whether the Sixers will hide Harden off of Dinwiddie, but either way, the edge is obviously to Philadelphia.

Advantage: Sixers

Shooting guard: Tyrese Maxey vs. Mikal Bridges

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Maxey had himself another terrific season as he finished fifth in the league in 3-point shooting at 43.4% from deep and he averaged 20.3 points per game. He is going to give the Nets a lot of trouble in terms of how he and Harden will give Brooklyn fits on how they want to defend them.

Bridges was terrific after being acquired from the Phoenix Suns. After the deadline deal, he averaged 26.1 points and 4.5 rebounds for the Nets and shot 37.6% from deep. He showed off more of his game as a dynamic scorer and somebody who can carry Brooklyn in games while also being a solid defender.

Advantage: Nets

Small forward: Tobias Harris vs. Cam Johnson

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Harris’ effectiveness comes down to the ball movement by the Sixers. When the ball is hopping around the perimeter and he is able to get it in his spots for catch-and-shoot opportunities, then he will thrive. If not, then he has to dribble a lot and play 1-on-1 basketball which is not what coach Doc Rivers wants from him. He will be a difference-maker on defense, however, when Philadelphia needs to slow down Brooklyn’s guards.

As for Johnson, he shot 37.2% from deep for the Nets after the deal and he jacked up 6.2 attempts from beyond the arc. Overall, he averaged 16.6 points and the Nets benefit from his 3-point shooting as he spaces the floor for the main guys to operate. This will be a close match-up, but it leans in favor of Philadelphia.

Advantage: Sixers

Power forward: PJ Tucker vs. Dorian Finney-Smith

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The playoffs are why Tucker was brought to Philadelphia. He has been through so many wars and he has seen so much in the postseason that he understands what it takes to succeed on this stage. The Sixers will need him to continuously provide that edge in this one.

Finney-Smith has also seen his fair share of playoff wars, and he is much more athletic and younger than Tucker, and that will make this a tough matchup for Philadelphia. Finney-Smith is a tough defender, he’s long, he’s lanky, and he can knock down a corner triple. It will be interesting to see how this matchup shakes out.

Advantage: Push

Center: Joel Embiid vs. Nic Claxton

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This one will be quick. Embiid is the likely MVP winner after leading the league in scoring at 33.1 points per game and he is a legitimate three-level scorer. The big fella is going to make Claxton’s life miserable in this series drawing fouls and just taking games over with his scoring.

Give Claxton credit for continuing to improve as a player, but he is nowhere near Embiid’s level. This is one of the clear edges Philadelphia has in this series.

Advantage: Sixers

Bench unit

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The Sixers are likely going to rely on four players off their bench: De’Anthony Melton, Georges Niang, Paul Reed, and Jalen McDaniels. The Sixers could also turn to Danuel House Jr. in place of McDaniels and could go to Tucker as the backup 5 and play small ball, but those four are likely to get the bench minutes. The biggest question could be Niang defensively against a quick, athletic Nets team so he will need to knock down his triples to be effective.

The Nets will mainly turn to shooters such as Joe Harris and Seth Curry as well as 3-and-D guy Royce O’Neale off their bench in this series. Those three are going to give the Sixers trouble if they find a rhythm and catch fire at any point. There are also guys such as Cam Thomas, Yuta Watanabe, Edmond Sumner, and Patty Mills who the Nets might turn to if they need a spark.

Advantage: Sixers

Story originally appeared on Sixers Wire

Source: Yahoo Sports


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