With Saturday’s win in Brooklyn, the Philadelphia 76ers punched their ticket to the second round of the NBA Playoffs with a sweep.
It was a physical four games, but all Philadelphia wins nonetheless; they now move onto face either Boston or Atlanta in Round 2.
A lot of different players stepped up to the playoff environment for the 76ers in Round 1, leading them to the sweep. Here are the 76ers’ top five players from the first round series.
1. Tobias Harris
Going into the series, Tobias Harris looked like a potential X-Factor for Philadelphia. If he could find ways to score and play aggressive basketball, they would find a lot more success.
That’s exactly what happened. Harris may not have been the most talented player on the court, but he showed up to play in every game.
Harris did what he does best in all four games: score the ball with efficiency. In Game 1, he had 21 points and went 3-3 from deep, while in both Games 2 and 4, he had a double-double and scored over 20 points.
The best part about Harris’ performance in Round 1 was his clear aggressiveness on both ends of the floor. He knocked down the open looks he got, created his own shot effectively and brought energy to the defensive side of the game.
Harris absolutely stepped up when the stakes were higher. His physicality, shooting and rebounding were a huge part of the sweep, and he’ll continue to be an essential piece of Philadelphia’s playoff run.
2. Joel Embiid
It’s no surprise that Joel Embiid made his impact on this series. Yet, his numbers weren’t all that great for a player that will likely be winning his first MVP soon.
The numbers don’t tell the full story though. Embiid was double-and-tripled teamed constantly in the series, but still found ways to impact the game with his passing, rim protection and rebounding.
Embiid had 20+ points in Games 1 and 2, despite Brooklyn doing everything they could to slow him down. He also was perhaps the most aggressive he’s ever been on the glass. The big man went for 19 rebounds in Game 2.
The defense that Embiid played might have been his biggest strength against Brooklyn. He blocked seven shots in three games, including a game-saving block on Spencer Dinwiddie in Game 3.
Embiid missing Game 4 due to an injury moves him back a spot in these rankings, but he still was a massive part in the sweep with his all-around impact. The 76ers will desperately need him healthy and available in Round 2.
3. Tyrese Maxey
The beauty of the playoffs is that it sometimes allows young players to blossom into superstars on a national stage.
In Games 2 and 3, that’s what Tyrese Maxey may have done. His speed, three-point shooting and interior scoring were on full display, and he totaled 58 points between those two games alone.
The truth is, there’s a strong chance the 76ers don’t win either of those games without Maxey. He was dominant as a scorer, and nothing the Nets did could slow him down. Players that can create their own shot often shine in the playoffs, and that’s what Maxey does best.
When Maxey’s on a hot streak like he was, he makes everybody else’s role on the 76ers so much easier. Embiid can focus on defending and rebounding rather than scoring every possesion, James Harden can focus on playmaking and others can fill in with shooting and defending.
Similar to Harris, Maxey is an X-Factor that pulled through in Round 1 when others were struggling.
4. James Harden
This may be too low for Harden. His huge presence on the court was still there, and his playmaking was as good as it’s been all season.
Yet, there were moments in the series where he struggled mightily, especially in the scoring department. He was at his best in Game 1, when he knocked down seven threes and strung together 13 assists.
In Game 2 though, he had eight points. In Game 4, he couldn’t buy a bucket around the rim, shooting 4-18 from the floor.
Again, his passing was still extremely valuable; he had double-digit assists in two of the four games. But for the 76ers to keep it up, Harden has to be better as a scorer, especially around the rim.
Harden’s scoring was too inconsistent to earn a higher spot in these rankings. He looked very solid as a passer, but he missed a ton of easy shots that he should have been making.
5. Paul Reed
Paul Reed didn’t even fully secure the backup center spot until a few months ago. But in the Round 1 playoff series, his tenacity, rebounding and interior scoring were more than enough to prove that he’s earned his minutes.
In Game 1, Reed went for 11 points and two steals off the bench, providing a spark for Philadelphia. He wasn’t all that great in Games 2 or 3, but all of a sudden, the 76ers needed him to start for Embiid in Game 4.
He filled the starting role well, putting together 10 points and 15 rebounds. Reed being able to step in and crash the glass like he did in Game 4 was big, and he’s built up a solid chemistry with Harden in the pick-and-roll game.
The former G-League MVP will be a free-agent this summer, and his playoff performance in Round 1 may have earned him some more money.
Reed may have to start another playoff game or two depending on Embiid’s health status going into Round 2. Based on his Game 4 performance, the 76ers now know that they can trust him in that spot.
Featured image courtesy of Sarah Stier/Getty Images
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