With the recent news of Blake Griffin being bought out by the Detroit Pistons and subsequently signed by the Brooklyn Nets, it appears as though the rich will continue to get richer in New York.
Without a doubt, the current largest opposition for the Sixers this is season to come out of the Eastern Conference is, and will continue to be, the Brooklyn Nets. So this begs the question, “Can the Sixers get by the Nets in the Eastern Conference?”
Barring some catastrophic injury on one of the teams or a team like the Milwaukee Bucks reasserting themselves in the conversation, it appears as though the Sixers and Nets are on a collision course which will culminate in an Eastern Conference Championship. The Sixers currently hold the best record in the Eastern Conference while the Nets have arguably three of the top five players in the Conference. Now there is a chance that these two teams can meet before the finals of the Eastern Conference Playoffs depending on how seeding shakes out, but if the season ended today, it would only be possible to meet in the ECF. While the Sixers are playing some incredible basketball, it feels as though the Nets will be making a run once the All-Star break ends and Kevin Durant returns to the lineup. Let’s see how the Sixers match-up with the Nets.
The Nets are primarily run by the tandem of Kyrie Irving and James Harden controlling the ball and Kevin Durant being one of the best spot-up shooters in the NBA who can also create his own bucket if necessary. The Nets also utilize their role players like Joe Harris, Jeff Green, and Bruce Brown, as well as former Sixers Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Landry Shamet as shooters when the stars drive and kick the ball out. The only real center on the team is DeAndre Jordan which is not necessarily a tough match-up for Joel Embiid. And now finally, the addition of Blake Griffin. While there is a possibility this doesn’t work out for the Nets, there was really no harm in “kicking the tires” on him. Even if he plays marginally the same as he did on the Detroit Pistons this year, he helps their team as a passing big man who can get a few buckets a game.
But how do the Sixers match-up? The starting five may actually be shaken up for this series. With so many incredible scorers on the Nets, defense may be the way to beat them. Adding a player such as Matisse Thybulle to the starting rotation in place of Seth Curry could be the answer. Having Matisse, the much better defender, guard either Harden or Kyrie in place of Seth seems to make more sense, as well as letting Seth play on the second unit with Shake Milton passing him the ball for open looks. The Sixers’ size is also going to be a real problem for the Nets. Regardless of who Blake would be covering, he’ll be exposed. He is far too slow to keep up with Ben Simmons or Tobias Harris, if he will in fact be in the Nets’ starting lineup. This would require help defense leaving someone open for either a deeper range shot or basket inside. The real way to beat the Nets for the Sixers may be as simple as that: throwing out the correct lineup/match-up, playing stout defense against a very fast team, and exposing the Nets’ true defensive weaknesses.
It is entirely possible the Sixers can defeat the Nets, even with their most recent addition. The Sixers have played exceptional all season thus far, and should continue to do so against their biggest competition, the Brooklyn Nets.
Photo: via CBS Sports