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Sixers, with Jimmy Butler doubtful, host Nets in Philly

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NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Brooklyn Nets Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

Hey! Missed you guys! It’s been a real minute since the last Nets game and wow did we all need the rest. I don’t know about you but even after the back to back wins against the Raptors and Knicks, the losing streak was just emotionally exhausting after a while. So many close ones. So many disappointments. Plus, it seems like the Nets have played the most arduous schedule in the NBA so a three-day break is just what the doctor ordered. They should be rested and ready to go to for Wednesday’s match-up with the 76ers, who just swept a home and home against the Pistons and sit third in the East at 19-9. Let’s get into it.

Where To Follow The Game

YES and WFAN at 7:00 p.m, ET.

Injuries

Caris Levert (foot) and Treveon Graham (hamstring) are still out. Levert was seen on his Instagram riding a stationary bike and while I’m not a medical expert (shocking) I would have to go ahead and say that it seems as if he’s progressing.

You do need your feet to ride a bike, you know. And Kenny Atkinson has told reporters that he’s been shooting as well. Another exercise where you need feet.

Also the Nets have recalled Dzanan Musa from Long Island. It’s unlikely he’ll get real minutes especially considering how well rested everyone is, but he’s been great in the G League so far this season, putting up 21 points per game and shooting well from the field. I’d guess after this roster is cleared out a bit in a few months through trades and buyouts (Kenneth Faried, cough cough) he’ll start to see some real minutes.

For the Sixers, Jimmy Butler (groin) is doubtful after a precautionary MRI, Markelle Fultz (TOS) is out indefinitely, Justin Patton (foot) is out indefinitely, and Zhaire Smith (foot) is still working on coming back. We might see Jimmy Butler, but the other three are for sure out.

The Game

It’s a lot more fun to write about the Nets when they’re winning! The back-to-back wins were a statement for the Nets; proof that they’re not just going to lay down and die this season like they might have and probably would have in seasons past. Spencer Dinwiddie specifically played his ass off, averaging 21 points and 7 assists in the wins while playing 30 minutes per game.

There are times when he frustrates the fanbase, maybe dribbling a little too much or taking an ill-advised stepback three, but there are also times where his scorer’s mentality and fearlessness are just what this Nets team needs. D’Angelo Russell has a bit of this as well, and he did drop 29 on the Raptors and handed out 11 assists vs the Knicks. but when Dinwiddie decides to drive to the bucket for a good look he really does it. I’d say this is something that’s sort of unquantifiable and intangible, but he’s second on the team in free throw attempts per game with 4.1 behind only Caris Levert at 4.4 which is a decent signifier of his effectiveness down low.

The Nets have played the Sixers well this season in their two matchups, running them off the floor in the first and losing on a Jimmy Butler game winner in the second. Brooklyn scored 122 and 125 points against the Philly defense in those games which is impressive considering Philly is 11th in the league with a 106.8 Defensive Rating. There’s a good chance this one ends up another close match-up, with the Nets having played 17 “clutch games” this season, games that are within five points or fewer in the final five minutes, the most in the league.

Joel Embiid has looked a little more human since the Butler trade, at least on offense. This is to be expected not only since Butler is going to get his shots, but the offensive dynamic does shift a bit with another impact player coming into the fold. Embiid’s shooting 43% from the field since the trade compared to 48% before, and his points per game are down from 27.7 to 24.7, a clean three-point drop. The Nets held him to just 16 points in the first match-up but he went for 32 in the second. We’ll see if the Nets can focus their defensive scheme on him to neutralize his output, but it’ll be harder if Butler plays. He needs some attention as well.

Joe Harris, by the way, is seventh among all small forwards in the league in Real Plus/Minus and 3rd in the East behind only Kawhi (of course) and Khris Middleton. He missed the games against Memphis, Cleveland, and Oklahoma City and I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that the Nets probably would’ve picked up at least one win in those games had he been healthy. Dinwiddie is often lauded as the shining example of the Nets player development team, but Joe Harris deserves some credit as well. Dude is ninth in the league in three point percentage.

Player To Watch

Landry Shamet is a guy who interests me. Wichita State guys have had a hard time finding a real spot in the NBA save for Fred VanVleet, but Shamet has a skill set that could help him carve out a nice career for himself. He can shoot, he’s quick, and he’s getting real minutes as a rookie on one of the best teams in the league which is always at least somewhat bankable as an indicator for future success and progression. His ceiling isn’t sky high, but if he can continue to run off screens and hit jumpers and generally play smart, hard basketball, he’ll be a solid player for a long time. Also, his season high of 16 points came against the Nets.

From The Vault

Lebron James and Dwyane Wade played each other for the last time on Monday night. These are two of my favorites of all time, with Wade being the first basketball player I was really drawn to as an individual and that Heatles team being one of my formative NBA powerhouses (I know, I’m young). Gunna miss these guys when they’re finally gone.

Enjoy.

For a different perspective, head on over to Liberty Ballers, the 76ers’ sister site on SB Nation.