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Nets take down Sixers without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, 122-109

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Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The chemistry experiment continues!

Even without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Nets successfully experimented on the 76ers, defeating the Philadelphia 76ers, 122-109. With the win, the Nets improve to 5-4 while the Sixers fall to 7-2. Philly came into the game with the best record in the NBA.

“Lots of satisfaction,” Nash said about the win. “Played incredibly hard, played together, and stuck to the game plan. We didn’t give up many offensive rebounds and didn’t turn over the ball much so you add it all up, it was a great performance. Proud of the way they fight, the way they fight together and have that collectivity. Great performance and just really proud of them.”

The Nets bench was the x-factor in the win. Their assault was led by Joe Harris, who had a strong performance of a game-high 28 points, six rebounds, and four assists in 30 minutes of play. He also paid the bills by going 6-of-9 from deep. Harris’ career 3-point percentage is now at 42.89 percentage, ninth all-time. He’s moved past Steve Nash, Kyle Korver and Steve Novak this season.

Harris did it all for the Nets from his sharpshooting to running the floor, his hustle played a huge role in the win. Thursday’s performance marks the second time this season Harris recorded 20+ points and the first time this season the Nets sharpshooter has posted 25+ points. The Nets $72 million dollar man scored 25+ points three times last season (two of which came in the ‘bubble’).

“Joe is a stud,” Nash said following the win. “He makes shots, he makes plays, he battles physically, defends, rebounds, and a bit of everything. He’s not just a shooter. He makes other plays and makes his teammates better because of his energy effort and shot-making.

Caris LeVert started and delivered for Brooklyn, finishing with 22 points, seven rebounds, and 10 assists in 32 minutes of play. Levert has scored 20+ points in the Nets' last two games, hitting that mark for the first time this season.

“Guys were making shots and we had a great game,” LeVert said following the win. “Played against those guys too defensively. We tried to get out in transition to get some easy ones and we did all that. In the first half and second half, we did a good job staying and competing.”

Jarrett Allen, yet again, played well against one of the league’s best big men in Joel Embiid. Allen finished with a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds to go along with three assists in 28 minutes. The Nets 22-year-old big has posted a double-double in three straight games and in four of his last five games. Tonight, he shot 5-of-6 from both the court and the stripe.

As a team, the Nets outrebounded the Sixers 48-47 and finished the win shooting 45.4 percent overall and 40.5 percent from deep while the 76ers shot 47.1 overall and 34.6 from deep. Brooklyn also forced a season-high 20 turnovers in the victory.

Shake Milton led the 76ers with 24 points while Embiid finished with 20 and 12. Ben Simmons had a subpar game, scoring only 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting.

LeVert said the game plan for Embiid really worked. The Nets wanted to double down on him and throw off his rhythm early on top of tiring the team out, considering Philadelphia was playing the second half of a back to back.

“Our gameplan on Joel really worked,” LeVert said. “We were doubling down on him, getting the ball out of his hands, and I think we limited him to like seven first-half shots so I think that threw his rhythm off. We were attacking him when we had the ball offensively. We know they played last night so we tried to get them up and down and it worked for us.”

Jarrett Allen wants to prove his worth against the league’s top big men

There is no secret to the history between Jarrett Allen and Joel Embiid, but unlike previous meetings, Allen got the upper edge on Embiid Thursday. Just as he did against another nemesis, Rudy Gobert, two nights earlier.

When asked following the Nets win over the Sixers if there is some fire between the two teams, Allen did not shy away from explaining the tension but calls it “good competition.” The Nets 22-year-old also jokingly credited Jared Dudley for starting the rivalry.

“There’s some little fire going up there,” Allen said about the potential Nets-Sixers rivalry. “Even looking at the fans, I feel like they feel the same thing too. Obviously, we are going to try to start going back and forth at each other. It’s all just good competition. We love going at each other and Jared Dudley really sparked it all.”

Allen called it a real challenge guarding Embiid but moving forward, the Nets big wants to continue to prove his worth and check off the boxes when it comes to playing the best big men in the league.

“In terms, of playing against Joel, I really like it,” Allen said. “It’s a real challenge for me obviously guarding one of the top three big men in the league if not one of the best. It’s like going back to the last game. I want to go out there, prove my worth, prove how much I improved every single year. Going from last year’s playoffs where I don’t think I played too well against them coming to this game where I felt like I held my ground. It’s a good point where I can pin myself to see how much better I have been getting.”

“I want to bring my best against all the competition. Like I said, I want to prove that I can be on the level as those type of bigs.”

He also could be in line for a huge contract come August.

The Film Room

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: The Philadelphia 76ers were coming off a back-to-back. Knowing this, Steve Nash’s game plan was simple.

Swarm the living hell out of Joel Embiid on every touch.

Here, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot––in what could only be described as a revenge game against his former employer––drops in on this Joel Embiid low-block touch to give Jarrett Allen an extra set of arms for the block.

Jarrett Allen was more than happy to take on the Joel Embiiid assignment on his own, who entered this game 14th in scoring with 25.3 points per game. Embiid does his best to get Allen’s hand caught in the cookie jar, but Allen keeps his hands raised high and uses his core strength to hold his balance as Embiid drives through his body.

Joe Harris, flourishing off the bench already, took care of things on offense with 25 points. A one-dribble three amidst a sea of (weirdly similarly colored) jerseys? Sheesh. Have yourself a night, Joseph (and the amazing technicolor dream jersey.)

More than just a Sixth-Man

As mentioned above, the Nets resident sharpshooter came off the bench against the conference rival. A total of 28 points off the bench tells most of the story, but here’s the man himself on his new role.

“I talked to Steve the day before (Tuesday’s game) and he was transparent with me. And I knew he wanted to change things up. It’s definitely for the better of the group. We’ve played a lot better these last two games. I have no problem with it whatsoever. As long as we’re winning games and playing the right way. Sometimes it takes tinkering with things a little bit, and (Nash) made the right move for sure.”

Interestingly, Nash made it clear Joey Buckets is still starting caliber. This is no mere demotion; rather, it’s a light redistribution of pieces on a chessboard. And at some point, those chess-pieces could align themselves with Harris on the starting line.

“Like I said earlier, Joe’s a stud,” said Nash. “He’s an NBA starter. We’re just experimenting. With Kevin (Durant) out with the quarantine, we’re just mixing it up, looking at different lineups, seeing if we can get different people playing together. Look, Joe Harris is outstanding. He’s going to play lots of minutes every night whether he starts or not doesn’t start. Right now, we’re looking at this machination of our team, and I’m sure we’re going to look at many others.”

Throwback Thursday

Brooklyn busted out those snazzy New Jersey blues (and reds! and whites!) for the first time on Thursday, and boy, did they not disappoint. The jerseys popped. The court, provided below, made for an impeccable viewing experience. I mean... just look at it. So delightfully retro!

We, of course, have covered the release of Brooklyn’s “Classic Editions” extensively, very extensively, getting comments from franchise legend Derrick Coleman on the jerseys as recently as this week. We’ll it one step further...

Here’s what head coach Steve Nash had to say on Brooklyn’s new throwback threads prior to tip.

“I think the ones we’re going to wear tonight are great,” said Nash through a smile. “Definitely can tell they’re––I don’t want to go as far to say they’re a period piece––but they have a date on them in a sense, a style and era. I think it’s super fun. I wouldn’t say that about every uniform of every era. But they certainly do have some classics from each era. I think it’s cool we’re rolling these out tonight.”

Back on December 8, Ian Eagle told members of the Nets media how the New Jersey Nets will always hold a place in his heart while providing his thoughts on the Nets throwback jerseys.

“For me, obviously there’s a place in my heart for the New Jersey Nets and there will always be a place in my heart because of what that team meant and the fact there are still a lot of Nets fans in the state of New Jersey that had a tough time initially,” Eagle said. “They were trying to synthesize exactly where this left them. What I found in the last couple of years, at least talking with people here in the state and I still live in NJ, is that they are still connected. Maybe initially there was some hesitancy. This move to embrace the past, which they have been doing, you would see a bunch of former New Jersey Nets invited to Brooklyn Net games, trying to bridge the past with the present.

“I do think it’s great. First of all, the look pops. There’s no doubt about it. Those jerseys pop. It is going to be cool to see the different versions around the league that each team has chosen. It keeps things fresh and brings a whole different conversation to the table and I think the league has been very smart about creating that banter from fanbase to fanbase. I think it’s a cool look. I know Kyrie is excited to put on those jerseys and represent the Nets.”

Where’s Kyrie?

Irving was a late scratch Thursday. The team said just before the game that the Nets superstar was out for “personal reasons.”

Steve Nash told Nets media in pre-game that he had just learned about Irving’s status for Thursday’s game. The Nets head coach called Irving’s situation a private matter.

“I don’t know. I just found out,” Nash said. “I just sent him a message in the last half-hour and I haven’t heard back yet. I’m obviously thinking about him and hope all is well. And yeah, it’s a private matter.”

Post-game, Nash said he still hadn’t spoken to Irving but dismissed a report that he “just didn’t feel like playing.” Nash retorted “I don’t believe that to be the case” when asked.

Irving has had no official comment, but earlier Thursday he posted this on Instagram...

As for Friday’s game in Memphis, Frank Isola reported that Irving will not travel to the Tennessee city...

Isola said he expects Nash to provide additional information on Irving during the Grizzlies pre-game.

Following the win, Caris Levert said Irving texted his teammates prior to the game - noting the personal issue.

“He texted us before the game but that is a personal issue for him,” LeVert said. “We support him. He’s our brother. We went out there and competed without him so like I said, it was a personal issue for him.”

Tsai - Next Man Up!

Joe Tsai took note of how the Nets are playing with so many players down or out...

Brooklyn’s ‘accidental town hall’ activated again

As the Nets and Sixers were warming up inside a fan-free Barclays Center, about 400 protesters gathered outside the arena to protest the assault on the U.S. Capitol Wednesday. Newly elected congressman Jamaal Bowman addressed the crowd. Norman Oder of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report wrote of what happened..

The crowd was variously estimated as 50 (by NY1, obviously assessing the early segment), hundreds (by PIX11), 400 and then 500 (by @protest_NYC) and “several thousand” (by the New York Times, generously).

The crowd grew after the protest, which started at 6 pm (and had emptied out when I arrived, at 7 pm), continued to Grand Army Plaza to protest outside the apartment building of Sen. Chuck Schumer, the soon-to-be majority leader. (Outside Schumer’s apartment, @protest_NYC estimated 500.)

Commercial advertising was replaced on the building’s oculus with a single word, “UNITY.” As noted before, the 20,000 square foot entrance plaza has become the borough’s “accidental town hall,” with various protests developing often ad hoc at the arena then moving up Atlantic or Flatbush.

What’s next

The Nets look to get revenge when the team travels to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies Friday. The game is set to tipoff at 8:00 PM ET and will be broadcasted on YES Network.

However, just after the game ended, it was reported that Seth Curry, who missed the game with an ankle issue, had tested positive for COVID-19. His teammates found out during the game. While the Nets flew on to Memphis, the Sixers went into quarantine at their New York hotel. Larry Fleisher reported...

Curry spent the first quarter on the bench in street clothes and was seen talking to Joel Embiid late in the period after the center came out for a rest with 3:05 left in the stanza.

The 30-year-old Curry left the bench area at the end of the quarter after being told of the result and was isolated from his teammates.

The 76ers are slated to conduct contact tracing on Friday morning and the players will undergo another round of testing, per NBA health and safety protocols. Philadelphia’s next contest is Saturday at home against the Denver Nuggets.

It remains uncertain whether the Nets will face similar issues Friday in Memphis. NBA players are tested daily for the deadly disease.

For a different perspective on Thursday’s game, head on over to Liberty Ballers, our 76ers sister site on SB Nation.