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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
* * *
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Every Gone Fishin’ of 2019 NBA playoffs
The 2019 playoffs are well underway and the “Inside The NBA” crew has a watchful eye on every playoff series. But as teams see their playoff runs come to an end, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith give the traditional “Gone Fishin’ ” send-off that has been a staple of “Inside The NBA” for years.
As such, here is a look at every “Gone Fishin’ ” segment from the 2019 playoffs.
* * *
Nets, Thunder & Magic
* * *
(If you missed it, Shaq, Charles and Kenny paid homage to the Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade and the Los Angeles Lakers before the playoffs got started.)
About Last Night: Williams takes control
The Clippers have scratched and clawed all season, and they weren’t about to let up because they were down 3-1 to the reigning champion Warriors.
Lou Williams came off the bench for 33 points and led the Clippers past Golden State with a flurry of points in the final four minutes. The 129-121 victory on the Warriors’ home court overshadowed a stellar game by Kevin Durant, who finished with a playoff career-high 45 points.
But Wednesday night belonged to Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Danilo Gallinari and Patrick Beverley, who extended the first-round series to Game 6 on Friday.
The Clippers led most of the game, but the Warriors made a run late in the fourth and took a 118-117 lead with 2:40 left on a drive and dunk by Durant, his final score. Williams then proceeded to reel off nine points, including this fadeaway jumper at 1:29 that put the Clippers up by seven, 125-118.
They cruised the rest of the way as the Warriors capitulated in the final 30 seconds.
Harrell also contributed big time off the Clippers bench, dominating in the paint with dunk-after-dunk and finishing with 24 points.
Here are a couple of examples:
Beverley grabbed 14 rebounds, took a key charge late and finished with 17 points.
“He came out with more energy and that set a tone,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, noting that Beverley fought for three early offensive rebounds.
Gallinari added 26 points and seven rebounds.
Durant’s shooting — he was 14-for-26 with five 3-pointers and 12-for-12 at the line — kept the Warriors within striking distance.
This heavily contested 3-pointer, which resulted in a four-point play, shows his shooting prowess.
Durant passed John Havlicek for No. 12 on the all-time playoffs scoring list, moving past Havlicek’s 3,776 points late in the first quarter.
— NBA (@NBA) April 25, 2019
Durant, who poured in 21 in the first half, passed Havlicek with his second 3-pointer with 2:37 left in the first quarter. His 45 for the game gives him 3,815, and Larry Bird is next on the list with 3,897.
But they’ve showcased a way to keep reigning Kia MVP James Harden somewhat in check — guard him from behind, taking away the step-back 3 and forcing him to drive and shoot floaters. Despite an 0-for-7 start from the field, Harden still finished with 26 points. But that’s well off his league-leading regular-season average of 36.1 points.
Harden made this floater in the fourth quarter, but this is how Ricky Rubio guarded him, sliding behind and allowing a lane to open.
The Jazz forced him inside and tried to protect the rim without fouling, forcing the two-point shot instead of the 3-pointer from distance with the possibility of a foul and a four-point play.
Harden also misfired a bit more than usual in his 10-for-26 shooting night as this failed dunk attempt shows:
Harden missed a wide-open dunk 😬 pic.twitter.com/SliKqnpwD7
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 25, 2019
The strategy employed by the Jazz showed up in the limited number of times Harden went to the foul line: only five and hitting three. He averaged getting to the line 11 times per game in the regular season and scored 9.7 points from the line. And Harden wasn’t a big factor from behind-the-arc, going 3-for-12.
But the Jazz couldn’t capitalize on the offensive end, missing many open 3-point looks. They were a woeful 9-of-38 from behind the arc, or 23.7 percent.
Joe Ingles (11 points, nine assists) and Rubio (17 points, 11 assists) played well, keeping Utah in the game, but the Jazz couldn’t break through down the stretch.
Donovan Mitchell, who was only 4-for-22 and finished with 12 points, missed a 3-pointer in the final minute and Chris Paul sealed the win with two free throws. Mitchell misfired on all of his nine 3-point attempts.
Andrew Bogut joined the Warriors near the end of the regular season after playing Down Under with the Sydney Kings. The big man has filled a valuable role with the leg injury to DeMarcus Cousins. In Australia, they’re under the impression he would like to do it again next year.
Andrew Bogut open to returning to NBA for another playoff run after next Sydney Kings season #NBLxNBA
— NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) April 24, 2019
Stat of the night
The Rockets had 12 steals and 12 blocks. The last time they had double-digits in both categories was 1995 in Game 5 of the conference finals. They went on to win their first title.
2019 NBA Playoffs: Conference Semifinals Schedule and Matchups
Eastern Conference — Semifinals
Game 1: Sun, April 28, Boston at Milwaukee, 1 ET, ABC
Game 2: Tue, April 30, Boston at Milwaukee, TBD, TNT
Game 3: Fri, May 3, Milwaukee at Boston, TBD, ESPN
Game 4: Mon, May 6, Milwaukee at Boston, TBD, TNT
*Game 5: Wed, May 8, Boston at Milwaukee, TBD, TNT
*Game 6: Fri, May 10, Milwaukee at Boston, TBD, ESPN
*Game 7: Mon, May 13, Boston at Milwaukee, TBD, TNT
Game 1: Sat, April 27, Philadelphia at Toronto, TBD, TNT
Game 2: Mon, April 29, Philadelphia at Toronto, TBD, TNT
Game 3: Thu, May 2, Toronto at Philadelphia, 8 ET, ESPN
Game 4: Sun, May 5, Toronto at Philadelphia, 3:30 ET, ABC
*Game 5: Tue, May 7, Philadelphia at Toronto, TBD, TNT
*Game 6: Thu, May 9, Toronto at Philadelphia, TBD, ESPN
*Game 7: Sun, May 12, Philadelphia at Toronto, TBD, TNT
* * *
Additional scheduling information, including tip times for each game, will be furnished as soon as possible consistent with the need to fulfill league obligations.
If both Eastern Conference Semifinals series are completed in six (6) games or fewer, the Eastern Conference Finals may move up to begin on Monday, May 13.
All games in the Conference Semifinals are exclusive network telecasts on ABC, ESPN, or TNT, and not available to be televised locally.
* – If Necessary
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