Break the brooms out! The Sixers defeated the Brooklyn Nets, 96-88, in game 4 of the first round to complete the sweep on Saturday.
It was the Sixers’ first opening round sweep since 1991, back when the first round was a best-of-5.
Tobias Harris led all scorers with 25, James Harden added 17, Tyrese Maxey added 16, and De’Anthony Melton scored 15 (all in the 4th quarter), to lead the way for the Sixers. Philadelphia was without Joel Embiid (right knee) and Danuel House Jr. (non-Covid illness) in this game.
Let’s take a look back at this series-clinching win:
Role Players Stepping Up
Coming into game 4, the team knew they were going to be without Joel Embiid after it was announced yesterday that he suffered a right knee sprain in game 3 and that other players would be called upon to make up for Embiid’s production.
Enter Tobias Harris. Harris racked up a double-double of 25 points and 12 rebounds. His patented backdown move was on point all afternoon. Harris was able to play straight bully ball on smaller Nets defenders and converted on most of his ensuing turnaround jumpers.
“I understand the type of game the playoffs is,” said Harris. “It’s for hoopers to really shine.”
Paul Reed was his usual no-Joel self. He, again, was a beast on both the offensive and defensive glass, pulling down 15 boards as part of a 10-point, 15-rebound double-double, and provided a scoring presence inside for the Sixers as well.
His chemistry with James Harden has been blossoming right before our eyes all season, and the two always seem to be on the same page now. As part of an 11-assist game, Harden was able to find Reed open in the paint time and again, getting the becoming rightfully named “Playoff Paul” open layup after open layup.
However, perhaps the biggest Game 4 contribution came from De’Anthony Melton. Melton was held scoreless through the first three quarters, but boy did he certainly come up big when the Sixers needed it.
He scored 15 fourth-quarter points (half the team’s points in the quarter) and hit 3 big-time triples as the Sixers extended their lead down the stretch.
“It took even more fight,” said Melton, talking about what it took for the Sixers to pull out a win in game 4. “It showed our resiliency, our growth, and our development.”
What About Joel?
Before game 4 tipped off, Doc Rivers posed a somewhat unclear picture about what the next few days and weeks have in store for Joel Embiid, who, as everyone knows by now, suffered a sprained right knee in game 3.
During his postgame presser, Rivers shed some more light on the situation, saying that the chance Embiid would be ready to start the Eastern Conference Semis is “50 percent at best.”
That is not a very encouraging sign, however, there still may be reason for optimism. In 2021, Embiid suffered a torn meniscus in game 4 of the Sixers’ opening-round series against the Wizards. Embiid would then sit game 5 out, a game the Sixers won to advance to the second round, and would go on to play in game 1 of the East Semis vs Atlanta less than a week later.
Depending on how long the Hawks-Celtics series goes (Celtics currently lead the series 2-1), the Sixers’ second-round series will begin on either April 29th-30th or May 1st-2nd. While there is no shot that Embiid will be at 100% by then, or at any point during the series for that matter, there is certainly hope that he could be ready for game 1 if history has anything to say.
Of course, the team (and the fans) have to prepare to at least start the second round without the MVP. Including the playoffs, the Sixers are 12-5 when Embiid does not play. That is a small sample size, but the Sixers’ winning percentage is actually better with Joel this season. This team has proven that they can win games without their superstar big man on the court, and in the case that he is not ready to play when the second round tips off, the team will have to continue to respond.
The Sixers now have at least a week to rest before they take on the winner of the Hawks-Celtics series, which will begin anytime between next Saturday and next Tuesday. Until then, let’s take the time as fans to relax and prepare because we all know how big this upcoming series will be.