I saved 78 clips to my computer while re-watching the opener of the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers. Playoffs baby!
Most of the clips can be sorted into just a couple categories, namely how the underdog Nets sent double teams at Joel Embiid, the presumptive MVP, and why they kept giving up offensive rebounds, mainly to P.J. Tucker. The clips also refute the original narrative of the game, that the Nets played their best basketball, particularly early on, and still lost.
I said just as much, writing in our game story that ‘The Nets were playing with effort and execution, but were still down nine [at halftime]. Is that more disheartening than being one’s own worst enemy? Does it inspire less hope going forward, knowing that your best may not be good enough?”
Perhaps that was a bit over the top. As you’ll see in many of these clips (not all 78, don’t worry), the Nets don’t have to wonder if their best is good enough yet; we still haven’t seen it. The Sixers did not just have a hot shooting night, accepting Brooklyn’s daring defensive strategy and beating it, they also capitalized on more than a few Nets mistakes.
Here are a few videos, broken up by category, on the biggest X’s and O’s stories of Game One and how Brooklyn may respond as the series continues.
Allowing Offensive Rebounds
I watched every offensive rebound that Brooklyn surrendered, at least before garbage time, so that you don’t have to. Here’s what I learned:
Bottom line: The Nets may have been able to salvage the possession battle had they committed to physicality and boxing out. Both Cam Johnson and Jacque Vaughn discussed the challenge of doubling Joel Embiid, and how that throws the defense out of whack. Basically, it’s harder to find a body on the glass after a chaotic defensive possession. While that principle is generally true, that’s not why Brooklyn surrendered 14 offensive boards Game One. They just didn’t sustain the necessarily level of physically and commitment to boxing out, regardless of the way they defended Embiid.
Doubling Joel Embiid
Speaking of which...
Bottom line: Yes, the Sixers shot the lights out in Game 1. But I’m not sure that speaks to any of Brooklyn’s ineffectiveness in doubling Joel Embiid off the wing. They executed that game-plan quite well, and even though Saturday’s game turned into a 20-point win for Philly, their coaching staff may not have felt thrilled with how they handled the Nets’ defensive game-plan. Brooklyn will surely mix up the coverages they throw at Embiid as the series continues, but don’t think some principles from Game 1 won’t reappear over the next week or so.
...needs to be better. And it’s not about the lob passes:
Bottom line: “The coaches want me to just get into the paint. Let the game dictate what the read is at the time...but overall, the mentality is just ‘get in the lane, break down the defense.’” - Spencer Dinwiddie, March 10th.
Dinwiddie knows what he has to do. He has since he was traded back to the borough. But now it’s time to deliver, and for Brooklyn’s point guard to lead the charge of quitting the team’s apparent fear of Embiid in the paint.
“Why shoot the breeze about it, when you could be about it?” - Nas, 1996.
That’s all for the Game 1 film study ahead of Monday night’s Game 2 in Philadelphia. There were undoubtedly more sources of intrigue put on tape by the Nets and Sixers, including how each side handled Mikal Bridges’ first-half explosion. Alas, Game 2 should offer up more insight into Mikal Bridges, Playoff Top Dog, so we’ll discuss it after Brooklyn’s chance to tie the series up before heading home.
Of course, rotation decisions, turnovers, and making free throws will be top-of-mind for Nets fans praying for a series-changing upset on Monday night. Playoff series swing so dramatically, game to game, that our next film study will look entirely different. Regardless, these three factors played a huge role in Game 1, and are guaranteed to re-appear in Game 2. Which team will stay the course? Which team will adjust first?