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Embiid, Simmons get aggressive and Game 2 gets ugly for Nets

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It took them a game-and-a-half.

The Philadelphia 76ers got booed off the floor in their own building in Game 1 on Saturday. They were up just one point at halftime of Game 2, fortunate that Joel Embiid didn’t get ejected late in the second quarter for a violent elbow to the head of Jarrett Allen.

But at the start of the third period on Monday, the most talented starting lineup in the Eastern Conference put its initial imprint on the NBA postseason with a 24-4 run that propelled the Sixers to a playoff record-tying 51-point quarter and an easy, 145-123 win to even the series at one game apiece.

The Sixers needed just nine offensive possessions to score those 24 points. And they got contributions from all five starters in the game-deciding run.

 

The Sixers evened their first-round series with Monday’s blowout victory.

It started innocently enough, with Joel Embiid draining a 10-foot jumper from the left wing when Nets center Jarrett Allen gave him plenty of space to shoot. But then it was defense leading to transition offense.

The next two buckets came off of strong 1-on-1 defense and resulted in very similar finishes on the other end of the floor. First, a Tobias Harris stop against Nets rookie Rodions Kurucs led to a fast break in which Ben Simmons stopped at the foul line and fed Embiid cutting down the left side of the lane for an and-one bucket.

Then a Simmons contest of a D’Angelo Russell bucket led to another break. This time, Simmons drove all the way to the bucket and found Embiid trailing the play for a dunk.

 

Philadelphia outscored Brooklyn, 51-23, in the pivotal third quarter of Monday’s Game 2.

That Embiid made both catches below the free-throw line was important in itself. It showed that he had more bounce and more energy than he displayed in Game 1, when he too often caught the ball near the 3-point line and six of his 15 shots came from outside the paint. He missed all six.

In Game 2, 11 of Embiid’s 12 shots came from inside the paint, with the jumper to start the third quarter being the one exception. He still caught the ball outside at times, but didn’t settle for jumpers with the Nets’ defense sagging in the paint. He finished with 23 points in fewer than 21 minutes of playing time, making 8-of-12 shots.

“If you’re going to leave me that much space, I feel like I can do other things with it,” Embiid said afterward about not shooting from the outside. “And tonight I just decided to be aggressive.”

Simmons was similarly aggressive, recording his second career postseason triple-double (18 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists) after a disappointing performance in Game 1.

 

Ben Simmons dropped his second career playoff triple-double on the Nets.

The onslaught continued after those two Simmons-to-Embiid transition buckets. After a Brooklyn miss, Jimmy Butler set a screen for Harris who got fouled on a pull-up 3. Then Butler deflected a Russell pass, Embiid saved the ball and Harris chased it down. Russell committed a clear-path foul, leading to a four-point possession that finished with Embiid catching the ball at the 3-point line, backing Allen down inside the paint, and draining a short turnaround jumper.

“They got multiple stops in a row,” Russell said, “and we couldn’t stop the bleeding.”

After the Nets finally got a second-half bucket, they went to a zone in an attempt to break the Philly rhythm. But that just got the Sixers’ zone-buster – J.J. Redick – involved. He found space on the left side of the floor and beating a Joe Harris close-out with a step-in jumper.

When Brooklyn went back to its man-to-man defense, Embiid posted up, rebounded his own miss and drew a foul on Kurucs. More Philly defense led to offense. Pressure from Simmons led Allen to throw an errant pass to Russell. Simmons picked up the loose ball and scored on the break.

After the Nets got their third and fourth points of the quarter, they got confused on defense and left Harris open beyond the arc, where he closed the 24-4 run with a 3-pointer.

It was a ridiculous offensive display:

  • 24 points on just nine possessions (2.67 per) to start the half.
  • 51 points on 26 possessions (1.96 per) for the entire third quarter.
  • A franchise-record 145 points on 105 possessions (1.38 per) for the game.

… and the Sixers’ leading scorer in Game 1 (Jimmy Butler, 36 points) scored just seven in Game 2.

 

Embiid’s aggressiveness – passing up 3s – proved crucial to a Game 2 victory.

The Sixers’ starting lineup is potent. It’s also big and athletic. That was evident 1) on defense, where contested shots and forced turnovers led to those transition opportunities, and 2) on the glass, where 15 offensive rebounds led to 21 second-chance points.

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said before Game 2 that his team was expecting “a haymaker” from the Sixers. He knew what he was talking about.

In Game 1, the Sixers’ starters were hampered by Embiid’s knee tendinitis and Redick’s foul trouble. Two nights later, we were all witness to a fully armed and operational battle station.

Because Game 2 got out of hand (closing with more than 10 minutes of garbage time), the starting lineup played together for just 9:52 on Monday. But in a total of 19 minutes and 15 seconds with all five Philly starters on the floor through two games, the score is Sixers 63, Nets 32.

Alas, the score of the series is 1-1. The blowout on Monday was worth the same as the Nets’ nine-point win two days earlier. Brooklyn still holds home-court advantage and can be happy with a split on the road.

But Embiid looking more like himself and the Sixers more aggressively exploiting the advantages they have in the paint can certainly be a sign of things to come. Philadelphia’s depth remains an issue and the spacing isn’t ideal within that starting group, but when things are clicking, you get a 24-4 run that will change a game … and maybe the series.

Game 3 is Thursday (8 ET; TNT).

* * *

John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.



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Spurs promote Buford to CEO; Wright to serve as GM

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Spurs Sports & Entertainment has promoted two-time NBA executive of the year RC Buford to chief executive officer, effective Sept. 3.

Buford is credited along with coach Gregg Popovich for building the Spurs into one of the most consistently successful franchises in sports, with five NBA championships since 1999 and 22 consecutive playoff appearances. Popovich is returning this fall for his 24th season.

Buford started his current run with the Spurs in 1994 and has climbed the ranks, including being named general manager in 2002 and his promotion to president of sports franchises in 2008.

The Spurs also said Tuesday that Brian Wright will serve as GM after three years as an assistant and Lori Warren and Bobby Perez have been elevated to executive vice president roles. Longtime executives Rick Pych and Lawrence Payne will transition to advisory roles.

On Monday, the Spurs said former NBA MVP Tim Duncan will join the Spurs as an assistant coach this season.

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Suns sign forward/center Cheick Diallo

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PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns today signed forward/center Cheick Diallo (pronounced Sheck Dee-ALL-oh) to a multiyear contract.

Diallo, 22 years old, has played three NBA seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans and this past season averaged career highs of 6.0 points and 5.2 rebounds in 14.0 minutes while making 62.0% of his field goals. Following the All-Star break in 2018-19, he averaged 8.9 points and 7.6 rebounds on 63.6% shooting from the field and 84.0% from the free throw line with eight double-doubles in 23 games, including a career-high 18 boards plus 16 points on Feb. 22 at Indiana. On a per-36 minute basis, Diallo holds career averages of 15.6 points, 13.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.

A 6-9, 220-pound forward/center, Diallo also measures a 7-5 wingspan and a 9-0 standing reach. He was originally the 33rd overall selection in the second round of the 2016 NBA Draft by the LA Clippers following one season at the University of Kansas. New Orleans acquired Diallo in a draft night trade and he played in 133 regular season games with the Pelicans in addition to seven postseason appearances during the team’s run to the 2018 Western Conference Semifinals.

Born in Kayes, Mali, Diallo began playing basketball at age 13 and moved to the United States as a 15-year-old in 2012 to pursue his career. He attended Our Savior New American High School in Centereach, New York, where he was a national top-ten recruit, two-time New York Gatorade Player of the Year, MVP of the 2015 McDonald’s All-American Game and Co-MVP of the 2015 Jordan Brand Classic. Last year, Diallo represented Mali by playing for Team Africa at the NBA Africa Game 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa. He is the second player in NBA history to have been born in Mali (Soumaila Samake).

Diallo will wear uniform No. 14 with the Suns. The Suns’ roster now stands at 15 players; an updated roster is attached.

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2020 NBA Free Agents | NBA.com

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Former All-Stars Draymond Green and Anthony Davis could hit the market in the summer of 2020. Who else might join the duo? Scroll down for some of the bigger 2020 names who could be looking for a new team. To view the complete list of current 2019 free agents, go to NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker.

For a refresher on free agency terminology (Unrestricted, Restricted, Player Option and more), check out our Free Agency Explainer page.

Notable Players Who Are Potential 2020 Free Agents

Unrestricted
Kyle Lowry
Draymond Green

Restricted
Jaylen Brown
Brandon Ingram
Pascal Siakam
Domantas Sabonis

Player Option
DeMar DeRozan
Gordon Hayward
Anthony Davis
Andre Drummond

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