In the three seed vs. six seed matchup of the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the Philadelphia 76ers will face the Brooklyn Nets.
The Sixers will be looking to do better than their previous playoff run, getting swept by Boston in last year’s second round. The Nets will be making their first playoff appearance since 2015.
While Philadelphia is favored, this will be a great first round series of two evenly matched teams.
At third in the Eastern Conference, the Sixers finished the season with a 51-31 record. During the year, the team made two big moves to stack their roster: acquiring Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris through trades. The playoffs have arrived, and we will get to see how these moves pay off.
Philadelphia arguably has the best starting five in the Eastern Conference, with each starter averaging over 15 points per game. Wether or not this core will stay together past the offseason remains to be seen, but right now the Sixers have a roster talented enough to make the NBA Finals.
The biggest question for Philadelphia heading into the playoffs is the health of Joel Embiid. The All-Star center averaged a monster 27.5 points and 13.6 rebounds this season, while playing 64 games.
According to Sixers GM Elton Brand, Embiid may not be fully ready to start the playoffs because of nagging knee issues. If this is the case, it puts extra pressure on Philadelphia to make up for his absence at the center position.
The Nets have been one of the most surprising teams in the NBA this season. Led by first-time All-Star D’Angelo Russell, the Nets rebounded from a 28 win season last year and now find themselves as the six seed in the East.
Around Russell, Brooklyn has strong guard and wing talent. Spencer Dinwiddie is having a career year with the Nets, averaging 16.8 points, and Joe Harris chips in 13.7 per game.
Luckily for the Nets, Caris LeVert is back in the lineup after a November foot injury sidelined him for much of the season. LeVert gives Brooklyn more offensive power, averaging 13.7 points in 40 games this season.
A sleeper through much of the season, the Nets are talented enough to make their first-round matchup very interesting.
Brooklyn and Philadelphia split the season series with each other, each winning two games. Two of the matchups were decided by three or fewer points.
The length of this series will be almost entirely dependent on Embiid’s health. When healthy, he is arguably the best center in the NBA. Brooklyn’s Jarrett Allen, while a good player, averaging 10.9 points and 8.4 rebounds, won’t have an answer for Embiid. If he misses the beginning of the series, the Nets could potentially steal two games from the Sixers.
While talent favors Philadelphia in this series, don’t expect Brooklyn to go down easy since they’re a young team.
Philadelphia in 6
Featured image credited to Getty Images.
Stats credited to basketball-reference.com.