Going up a weight class is always a valuable learning experience. You’re out of your comfort zone, have a brand new challenge, and can take the opportunity to learn something new. And when you survive that battle, it builds character in a major way. The Brooklyn Nets fell behind by as much as 17 points on the road against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night, but they fought all the way back and came away with an incredibly impressive win. Games like that build character.
The opponent tonight has gotten hot at the right time. The Philadelphia 76ers find themselves in second place in the Eastern Conference standings, one game ahead of the fourth place Nets. They completed a perfect road trip with a come from behind victory against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night. Five game road trip, five straight wins. Impressive.
Where to follow the game
YES Network for us. ESPN for the rest of y’all. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30 PM.
Kevin Durant is making progress and will be evaluated in two weeks.
Joel Embiid is questionable with left foot soreness. Furkan Korkmaz is out with a shoulder injury.
Philly won the first game in November.
Usually, an MVP contender is in the Player to watch section, but since Joel Embiid is listed as questionable, he's here instead. C'est la vie. In the meantime no one’s been able to stop the MVP runner up this season. Embiid is averaging a career high 33.6 points per game on .537/.352/.856 shooting splits in 35 minutes a game. He’s taking a few less three pointers this season and has traded them in for more shots at the basket. It’s helped him to shoot a career best 79.1 percent on shots inside of three feet. When he gets the ball deep in the post, the party’s over and your best defense is to foul him and pray he misses at the free throw line. When he’s locked in on the other side, he’s an absolute menace on the defensive end and can stop an opponent’s offense by himself. His health will determine the Eastern Conference playoffs and if he’s locked in and 100 percent, look out.
Nic Claxton will be all over the court tonight. Claxton had a interesting challenge with a team like the Warriors that lives on the perimeter, but he still managed to have another great game. He got three blocks, and has blocked three or more shots in 12 straight games, a new franchise record. A game like this will be a huge test of all his improvements and Brooklyn will need him on the court as long as possible. Day’Ron Sharpe and Markieff Morris figure to get some run tonight as well. It’s an all hands on deck affair when you’re facing Embiid.
So Matisse Thybulle is in an interesting spot. His minutes have been chopped in half, but the numbers check out and show that he’s been a solid contributor coming off the bench. However, the question of if he can stay on the court come playoff time is a fair one, and one Kyle Neubeck of the Philly Voice discussed recently:
Teams are bolder about ignoring non-threats from three than they’ve ever been, and Thybulle is a great example of that shift. Over 45 percent of his total shot attempts this year have been wide-open threes, and NBA tracking data does not have a single Thybulle three-point attempt this year categorized as tightly contested. It’s something that can impact a regular-season game but the Sixers are often able to just “talent” their way around. Whether that’s possible against playoff-caliber teams — who are better equipped to exploit weaknesses on both ends — is another story.
Doc Rivers and Philly management have some big decisions to make.
Per the NBA this is rivalry week. Per Jacque Vaughn and KD, this game isn’t a rivalry. Damn. Don’t tell that to the Brooklyn Brigade, They’re sending busloads (plural) to Wells-Fargo Center.
Deep shooting will be essential tonight. Both teams are top four in 3-point percentage and for the Nets, their best shooters have started to heat up at the right time. Joe Harris has gone 11-of-17 from deep the last three games and Seth Curry has gone 7-of-14 from deep as well. Philly’s ace 3-point shooters are Georges Niang and De’Anthony Melton. Whoever has the most success from deep will set the tone for the night.
Kyrie Irving has regained his rhythm. He’s scored at least 30 points, grabbed five rebounds, and handed out at five assists in three straight games. Irving is scoring from everywhere on the court and perhaps most importantly, has not been turning the ball over. In this three-game stretch, he’s only turned it over three times. You want to get the ball in your star’s hands as much as possible and when they make winning plays every time down, your chances of winning go up tremendously.
Since this is a national TV game, I imagine the following will be brought up...
Kyrie on why KD's absence is different this year: "Well I'm consistently in the lineup, that helps. We also don't have anyone who is halfway in in the locker room."— Alec Sturm (@Alec_Sturm) January 16, 2023
So I guess this is Harden’s response to Kyrie (and Claxton’s) comments pic.twitter.com/Wq7AsxqbaZ— Alec Sturm (@Alec_Sturm) January 18, 2023
James Harden is still an incredible passer. He leads the league in assists at 11.2 per game (he missed a month due to injury which is why he’s not the official leader) and is still good for 37 minutes a night. Interestingly, he’s taken the fewest amount of shots inside of three feet in his career. Some of it could be due to the right foot injury that kept him out for a while. Some of it is the roster and lineup construction. Most interestingly, he’s back to operating in the midrange area. Being good everywhere on the court
Player to watch: Tyrese Maxey
To win a title, you need two players who can create their own shots. Philly definitely has two, and their third option is pretty damn good in his own right. Tyrese Maxey is absolutely electric coming off of the Sixers bench and someone who will be a key part of their future. He constantly gets downhill, can heat up in a hurry, and can carry the team when the heavy hitters are out. At just 22 years old, he has plenty of room to improve and build upon his early success.
Maxey was also awarded the Humanitarian Award from the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association and gave this speech
We’re so lucky to have athletes here who just get it. @sixers Tyrese Maxey on “giving back” in a heartfelt speech after being awarded the Humanitarian Award from The Phila Sports Writers Association. “I appreciate how hard everyone works here. It’s a Philly thing I guess”❤️ pic.twitter.com/xQykalLc9N— Cindy Webster (@CindyWeb94) January 24, 2023
That's great to see.
The first time back after a messy breakup is always nasty, so maybe the second time won’t be so bad? Philly has been feeling great since the Philadelphia Eagles laid the smackdown on the New York Giants on Saturday so maybe they won’t have enough slander left for Be... nah, Ben Simmons is gonna get booed out the building again.
Simmons had a decent game on Sunday night, but had still people wanting more. He had 11 assists to only two turnovers and was looking to get on the go out in transition
Tempo, tempo, tempo! He’s been turning the ball over at a career high rate, and that has short-circuited a good portion of his offensive effectiveness. He still isn’t shooting enough when he gets to the basket, and when you combine that with the turnovers, it makes his job a lot harder. If he plays with purpose, cuts down the mistakes, and keeps the aggression up, he’ll win back some of his most ardent critics. Not the critics in Philadelphia, but critics nonetheless!
DraftKings Odds [via Tom Lorenzo]
Brooklyn Nets +5; ML +170
This one scares me from a betting perspective - there will be a lot of riding on Kyrie Irving and his ability to play out-of-his-mind basketball. We also, at the moment, have a “questionable” tag on Joel Embiid.
On paper, when you have two of the league’s top-10 offenses going up against each other you have to like a 225.5 Over call; however, I’m thinking this is going to be a contrarian evening and that both teams might not put up the type of points we’re used to. Brooklyn is 28th in the NBA in offense over their last 5, and while the 76ers have won each of their last 5 games they’ve actually done so buckling up on defense. I’m going to lock in the UNDER at 225.5 for this one - going against grain and predicting a defensive battle.
If Joel Embiid doesn’t play I actually like the Nets getting 5 points here. We still need to see where he nets out, but I would take the points without Embiid in the lineup,
From the Vault
The road to the Royal Rumble continues as we take a trip back to 2019
More reading: Liberty Ballers
Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.
- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Philadelphia 76ers Game Notes - Philadelphia 76ers
- Streaking Sixers return home to battle Nets - STATS
- Top scorers meet in Philadelphia-Brooklyn matchup - AP
- Jacque Vaughn: Nets’ focus should only be on gaining ground on 76ers - Mark W. Sanchez - New York Post
- Kevin Durant doesn’t ‘want to rush anything’ after promising Nets injury news - Mark W. Sanchez - New York Post
- Jacque Vaughn, Kevin Durant feel there is no Nets-76ers rivalry - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- With Kevin Durant out, Kyrie Irving’s confidence is driving the Nets - Nick Friedell - ESPN
- Sixers consider their latest meeting against Ben Simmons just another game: ‘For us, that’s over’ - Keith Pompey - Philadelphia Inquirer
- Joel Embiid sits out Sixers practice; will he play vs. Ben Simmons and the Nets? - Gina Mizell - Philadelphia Inquirer