After passing the Rudy Gobert test and continuing his high level of play, Jarrett Allen will have his next challenge Thursday night with Joel Embiid coming to town. There is no secret the two big men have history, which resulted in an infamous brawl among their teammates back in the 2019 playoffs.
Brooklyn and the Philadelphia 76ers had a heated and very physical first-round series that year. Embiid hacked Allen in Game 2 with a flagrant 1 foul, which resulted in the Sixers big laughing at the post-game press conference. In Game 4, laughs turned physical as Embiid once again hit him with a hard foul. At that point, Jared Dudley sparked the infamous scuffle. Although Embiid and Allen didn’t participate in the brawl, Dudley and Jimmy Butler got tossed as the waters simmered.
The numbers told the story. Embiid averaged 24.8 points and 13.5 rebounds, Allen about half that at 11.0 and 6.8, in the five-game series.
The series not only concluded Brooklyn’s 2018-19 season but social media took a toll clowning Allen. From that Internet clowning and that altercation, Allen was fully motivated to improve his game ... and physique over the offseason.
“It fueled me pretty well,” Allen said at the Nets 2019 Media Day way back in September 2019. “We all know, the obvious thing that was going around, all over the world, was that I was not strong enough. That is one thing I really wanted to change in the offseason.”
From hitting the weight room to consuming seven (!) meals a day, the Nets big man focused on building muscle and mass.
“Lifting weights every day, going with a nutritionist, talking with the strength coach, and I pulled everybody together for a meeting at the beginning of the summer just to talk about the goals we need to do,” Allen said. “I ended up eating like seven meals a day - something crazy like that just to get on as much as I can.”
Looking ahead to Thursday’s meeting, Steve Nash acknowledged the challenge of guarding Embiid - noting not many players can do it. He wants his team to support both Allen and De Andre Jordan when Embiid is on the floor and wants his team to really play physical.
Specifically, Nash said he’s looking forward to Allen matching up against his nemisis.
“I hope so. He’s been playing fantastic this season and it is a unique matchup,” Nash said Wednesday about Allen going up against Embiid. “He [Embiid] is one of the biggest and most talented in the league so there are not many Embiid stoppers on the planet. I just want to see us work together and I want to see them fight, scrap, claw, and make it difficult for him. Win 50-50 balls and we got to support him [Allen] as a team and DJ the same.
“I don’t look at it like how does he do matching up against Embiid tomorrow night. I look at it like how are we going to handle their team and how are we going to handle Embiid so hopefully, he has a great performance and was everywhere like he was last night [Jazz game].
Indeed, Allen showed just how far he’s come in recent years on Tuesday night. Per NBA stats, Allen shot a combined 38.4 percent against Gobert in his two previous seasons. In fact, the last time Allen matched up against Gobert — a two-time Defensive Player of the Year before Tuesday— he was outscored, 22-8, and outrebounded, 18-2. Tuesday, Allen dominated the $200 million man recording two blocks, a poster-dunk, three steals, 18 rebounds, and 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting in the process.
For the Nets, they have to hope Allen’s evolution continues.