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Nets come home to wrap up 2021 vs. 76ers

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Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

West coast vibes are the best vibes. The Brooklyn Nets spent the Christmas weekend in Los Angeles and after beating the Lakers on Christmas night, closed things out against the Clippers on Monday night. The Nets were up by a bunch, tricked it off a little, but were never in any real fourth quarter danger as they won by 16 points. It was the team’s fourth straight road win.

The opponent tonight will be the Philadelphia 76ers. Doc Rivers and friends have dealt with a ton this season, but they’re hanging tough. They were in a tight one on Tuesday, but came away with a much needed win over the Toronto Raptors.

Where to follow the game

YES Network for us, NBATV for everyone else. WFAN on radio. Party gets started after 7 p.m.

Injuries

Day’Ron Sharpe and Kessler Edwards are still in COVID protocols. That’s it. Cam Thomas cleared protocols Wednesday morning, David Duke Jr. on Thursday morning. The two cleared rookies will all be available tonight and Steve Nash said he expects KD and LMA to play. Irving is in ramp-up. Joe Harris is still on the recovery trail. With three replacement players still on the roster, two of whom were just extended for another 10 days, the Nets have 16 players available.

Danny Green, Tyler Johnson and Myles Powell are all in COVID protocols and are out, as is Coach Doc Rivers. Shake Milton was in COVID protocols and is listed as questionable. Ben Simmons still is holding out and it looks more and more likely he’ll never play for Philly again. Rivers, who entered protocols Thursday morning, will be replaced by assistant Dan Burke.

The game

Brooklyn took game one in October and two in December. These teams close out the season series in March.

Hey, an old friend of ours is back in the league! Thanks to all of the COVID outbreaks, the Sixers signed former Net, Tyler Johnson, to a ten day contract a few days ago. I am ALL the way here for guys getting their opportunities. Shouts to him. He won’t play vs. the Nets, however. He entered protocols Thursday.

Last time we saw Kevin Durant, he torched Philly to the tune of 34/10/8. Now that he’s back, we’ll see how Steve Nash and the coaching staff manage his minutes. The time off probably did wonders for his sore ankle and now that the roster is starting to get healthier, the Nets will become even more difficult to handle. Matisse Thybulle figures to get the KD assignment, but that assignment is mission impossible for everybody that has to match up with Durant. The roster (well, the home one at least) is close to being back at full strength so the Nets can ease Durant back into the swing of things.

When the Nets last saw the 76ers, Seth Curry was the second best player for Philly. He scored 29 points and was the secondary scoring option as Tobias Harris struggled on both sides of the ball. Curry and Patty Mills will be in a mini three point shootout as they are both integral to the space of their teams’ offense.

Surprisingly, the 76ers have been awful on the boards. They are 29th in rebound rate , which is due thanks in large part to their lack of success on the offensive boards. Having Andre Drummond back ought to help on that front, although as he’s just back from his on stay in protocol land, may not be out there for too long.

With Simmons out, Doc Rivers has used Tyrese Maxey in a Simmons type role. However, that may not be the best use of the second year player’s talents. Harrison Grimm of Liberty Ballers has more:

The Sixers would fare much better if they split up the starting five’s minutes. Maxey’s best skill is scoring, and he’s damn good at it. His role would be much more simplified if he was tasked with being the go-to scorer alongside the bench unit while Embiid was off the floor. It would also give the Sixers bench unit a reliable scorer. We simply haven’t seen any of this for this season, which is crazy to say given the Sixers are still hovering around .500 going into January. They aren’t exactly thriving with their current game plan.

Running Maxey primarily with the starters has hurt his stats and overall impact on the team. He’s never been a “natural playmaker” and Rivers trying to grow him through a Simmons- or Rajon Rondo-esque role is not ideal whatsoever. We’ve seen first hand at how having a 6-foot-2 point guard in the dunker spot isn’t exactly ideal for Joel Embiid or the Sixers’ spacing.

Maxey has done well in his role and if the team decides to tweak things, he can get even better.

James Harden is back home after putting on a show in his first home. He had his best game of the season against the Clippers and reminded everyone just how excellent he is. 39/15/8 on a .600/.444/1.000 split is incredible and what’s been great about his play since returning is he’s been consistently driving to the basket and attacking downhill. With Harden creating so much pressure on opponents, he takes a great Nets team and boosts them up a few more notches. Imagine what things are gonna look like when everyone’s back and locked in.

Player to watch: Joel Embiid

Once again, the weight of the franchise is on the big guy’s shoulders. Embiid is dominating once again and is top ten in both scoring and rebounding this year. His passing has improved tenfold and is averaging a career best four assists a game. If you single cover him, he’s a big ole battering ram in the low post. Try to double him and he’ll make the right pass and find an open teammate. He’s everything you want as a franchise player and it’s up to Sixer management to do right by him and get enough talent to make Philly a title contender.

Nicolas Claxton got a new job and tied a career high, all in the same day! By day, he is the Nets new Players’ Association representative. By night, he’s blocking shots, contesting everything in sight, and finishing well at the rim in route to a super smooth 18 points. Clax will get a huge test tonight and if he’s able to put a great game together against the best center in the East, it will boost his confidence even more. Claxton will have plenty of help with the return of LaMarcus Aldridge and the continued presence of Blake Griffin.

From the Vault

In sad news, John Madden passed away on Tuesday at the age of 85. Let’s pay homage to the legend

and get in the game!

More reading: Liberty Ballers

One final note...

2021 NBA Playoffs - Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s my last article of 2021, so it’s about time I thanked some people! First up, gotta shout out all my colleagues here at NetsDaily. It’s an immense honor to be able to work with such a great group of people as I write about the Nets and New York Liberty. Everyone here does such wonderful work and I’m glad I get to chip in and be a part of the squad.

Also want to big up all the wonderful people who cover and discuss the Nets. With a team as exciting and fascinating as this one, it’s a great privilege to be in community with so many talented writers, podcasters, video analysts, tweeters, etc. It’s so much wonderful work out there and I’m glad so many great voices get their opportunity to enter this space and shine.

And last but certainly not least, I wanna thank you, the readers! This is my ninth season writing about the Nets here at ND and I’m grateful that you guys make time to read and engage with my work here. Between the game previews on the Liberty and Nets, feature stories, and everything in between, it’s fun to get to write for such a fantastic site. See y’all on the other side!