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Eastern Conference Playoff Preview 2023: 76ers vs. Nets

Eastern Conference Playoff
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview 2023: 76ers vs. Nets

The 2023 Eastern Conference playoffs between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets tips-off Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN. The last time the 76ers and Nets met in the playoffs was in 2019 in the first round. The 76ers won that series in five games.

Philly swept Brooklyn in their regular season meetings as well. Brooklyn was much more competitive earlier in the season against Philly, but that was before they traded Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant away. Despite going 12-15 since the Durant trade, the Nets were able to avoid the play-in. The 76ers are once again seen as title contenders this year, and that will continue as long as Joel Embiid is there.

Here’s the 2023 Eastern Conference Playoff series schedule for 76ers vs. Nets:

GAMEDATEMATCHUPTIMETV
Game 1Saturday, April 15Brooklyn @ Philadelphia1:00 p.m. ETESPN
Game 2Monday, April 17Brooklyn @ Philadelphia7:30 p.m. ETTNT
Game 3Thursday, April 20Philadelphia @ Brooklyn7:30 p.m. ETTNT
Game 4Saturday, April 22Philadelphia @ Brooklyn1:00 p.m. ETTNT
Game 5*Monday, April 24Brooklyn @ PhiladelphiaTBDNBA League Pass
Game 6*Thursday, April 27Philadelphia @ BrooklynTBDNBA League Pass
Game 7*Saturday, April 29Brooklyn @ PhiladelphiaTBDTNT

Now, let’s get to know each team, and examine what key questions this series will need to answer.

What to know about the Philadelphia 76ers:

Notable Starters

  • G: James Harden
  • G: Tyrese Maxey
  • F: Tobias Harris
  • F: P.J. Tucker
  • C: Joel Embiid

Other players in playoff rotation:

  • Shake Milton
  • De’Anthony Melton
  • Georges Niang

The 76ers squad is definitely a stout squad on its own. While I am not a fan of James Harden in the slightest, or even Joel Embiid for that matter, I can recognize the talent that this team has.

While the lack of spacing that Tobias Harris and Embiid provide on the floor at the same time can be restricting offensively, the defense in the starting lineup is tough. If a team is going to beat the 76ers, they will have a hard time doing that by scoring the paint. They’ll have to rely on mid-range and 3-point shots to get solid output on this team.

My concern for this team is when Embiid isn’t on the floor. Sure, the defense can still be solid with P.J. Tucker, Tobias, and even Harden as a post defender, but will the offense have enough firepower? Harden’s style of play can be stagnant at times. If Embiid isn’t on the floor to help alleviate that, I’m not sure how well this offense can do without him.

I do like Tyrese Maxey, Shake Milton and De’Anthony Melton as nice little rotation between the guards. I believe they all have balance play to keep the 76ers in a lot of games. The 76ers lack depth in the frontcourt, but it hasn’t hurt them yet.

What to know about the Brooklyn Nets

  • G: Spencer Dinwiddie
  • G: Mikal Bridges
  • F: Cameron Johnson
  • F: Dorian Finney-Smith
  • C: Nic Claxton

Other players in playoff rotation:

  • Seth Curry
  • Joe Harris
  • Royce O’Neal

If you like hoopers, the Nets are the team for you. Hoopers as in, players that are fun to watch but not as successful. There are some players that I like watching on this Nets squad — Spencer Dinwiddie and Mikal Bridges, especially — but there’s no real star on this team. I am actually surprised this team stayed out of the play-in after they traded Irving and Durant.

IF this team had a star on the roster, this team actually could make some serious noise in the playoffs. But, Dinwiddie and Bridges are just not those guys that can lead a team consistently night after night to the standard that is needed in the playoffs. Nic Claxton doesn’t have enough offense in his arsenal to kill teams in the frontcourt. Cameron Johnson and Dorian Finney-Smith are much better players to come off a bench rather than start. This team lacks talent, no doubt about it.

Questions for 76ers vs. Nets?

1.) Who on the Nets will step up and rise to the challenge?

As mentioned, the Nets do not have a STAR on their team. But someone will have to step up if the Nets want to have any chance in this series. They can’t 2015 Atlanta Hawks on this playoff run. Someone will need to be “the guy” before the Nets can actually get their guy to lead their team. My bet is on Bridges. He was the Nets’ leading scorer 18 times since he was traded to the Nets, but now, he’s going up against the actual stars of the league in Embiid and Harden. Good luck.

2.) What will Claxton be able to do against Embiid?

Unfortunately, Claxton has the toughest job of anyone in this series: trying to control Joel Embiid. Not only is Embiid a star and can score on anyone in the league, but he also gets to the foul line a lot. He averages almost 12 free throws a game — I’ll let you speculate on how he gets to the foul line.

The question is: How can Nic Claxton try to contain him WITHOUT fouling? The Nets desperately need Claxton to rebound for them and do his best against Embiid. Can he be a pest without fouling Embiid? Can he go at Embiid to get him out of the game early? Will Claxton continue to keep up his rebounding numbers while battling Embiid? All are good questions, and Claxton certainly has his work cut out for him.

3.) Will Harden’s Playoff shooting woes continue?

If you don’t know already, I hate Harden. Hate how he plays, always have, and always will. Most of the reason why I hate how he plays is that it is not sustainable. ISO-ball is boring and will end up not winning a championship. He has gotten away from that more this year, but there are still times when he does it.

In the past few years, Harden has fallen victim to playoff shooting woes, shooting over 40% from the field only nine times in his last 20 playoff games. That’s not ideal for one of your star players. Even worse, last year, he only shot 40% or above five times in the 12 playoff games the Nets played.

Harden has to be more efficient in his shooting. He has shown that he can shoot himself and his teams out of games in the past. He can’t do it again to start the playoffs.

Prediction: 76ers in 5.

The 76ers should win this Eastern Conference playoff series easily. James Harden and Joel Embiid are two stars compared to the zero stars the Nets have. However, it is almost inevitable that either Mikal Bridges or Spencer Dinwiddie goes off, Embiid gets in foul trouble, or Harden shoots them out of a game. That’s why I am giving the Nets at least one game.

I think the 76ers sweeping the Nets is entirely possible, but the Nets will still win one game for the Gentleman’s Sweep. The 76ers will either play the Celtics or the Hawks, so really the Celtics. The 76ers road to the playoffs will be a lot tougher then.

***

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