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Nets take on playoff-bound 76ers

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Up, down and out. The Nets started out like a house afire vs Toronto with D’Angelo Russell scoring 24 points in seven minutes, but the Raptors figured out a way to contain him and DLo put up only eight more points and the Nets dropped another one Tuesday night.

Tonight, the Nets head down the New Jersey Turnpike to Philly to face the 76ers who are getting closer to clinching their first playoffs since The Process began in 2012. Currently in the sixth seed, they are only two games (one in the loss column) behind third third-seed, Indiana. On Thursday night, they were in New York to beat the Knicks, 118-110 (giving New York the worst record in the NBA over the last seventeen years.)

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM. Tip off after 7:00. So early start.


Jarrett Allen is back after a sore left foot. Isiaah Whitehead remains with Brooklyn. Allen Crabbe is questionable with an illness.

Markelle Fultz, (shoulder), the NBA’s top draft pick, has yet to play this season and is unlikely to. Furkan Korkmaz (foot) is out as well and Demetrius Jackson (groin) is day-to-day.

The game

This is the fourth and the next to final game between the two teams and the 76ers and Nets are even. The game will be a rematch of the two teams’ matchup on Sunday, which Philadelphia won 120-97. The 76ers have won every other game going back to March 2, four wins, three losses.

More importantly, Joel Embiid has played in 13 straight games. No longer are the Sixers resting him. Over the last month and a half, he’s averaged 30 minutes a game and better than 22 and 10. Over the last two games, a loss to Indiana and the win over the Knicks, he averaged nearly 33 minutes and put up 58 points and 22 rebounds. As Philly approaches the playoffs, he might drop off a little but with the third seed easily in reach, the Sixers will have an interesting decision to make. FYI, today is Embiid’s 24th birthday.

As for the Nets, they have another tough loss to put behind him. The Raptors had won eight straight on their arrival in Brooklyn and for three quarters, they put up the good fight, but sometimes talent just overwhelms. The two teams found themselves in a tight battle down the stretch, but the Raptors ultimately prevailed following a 9-0 run to go up by 12 with two minutes remaining.

While DLo has been hot, hitting 46.5 percent of this 3-pointers his month and averaging 17.4 points, his backcourt mate, Spencer Dinwiddie has been having problems. In March, he’s averaging 8.8 points and shooting 15 percent from three (not a typo). If the Nets are to make any kind of a run their last 14 games, he’ll have to step up and return to form.

A subdrama to watch: will Jahlil Okafor get minutes vs. his old team. After he failed to get on the floor with Allen out —and the Nets going with a small ball lineup the entire game— there’s speculation (again) that the Okafor experiment is done. He’s played in one game since February 12, vs. Philly on Sunday.

Player to watch: Ben Simmons

The rookie of the year race is down to Simmons vs. Donovan Mitchell of the Jazz, who was taken 13th. On Thursday night, he helped his cause not just with his contribution to the win over the Knicks — a triple double of 13, 10 and 12— but he hit a bit milestone. He became the third rookie in history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists. The other two? Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.

It was also his eighth triple double of his rookie year, besting Johnson’s seventh (but still way behind the Big O record of 26).

“It’s surreal knowing that the game’s been played for a long time and so many greats have been through,” Simmons said after the game. “I’ve set a record with Magic and Oscar Robertson, which is surreal to me.”

Can’t disagree with that.

From the Vault

Let’s go back two years and take a look at Jahlil Okafor’s rookie season when he averaged 17 and 7. Six minutes of highlights...

More reading: Liberty Ballers.