Philadelphia 76ers: 5 keys to beating the Brooklyn Nets in Game 5

Joel Embiid | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers will have a chance to close out their first-round series in the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.

After the euphoric high of a hard-fought Game 4 victory by the Philadelphia 76ers, it feels like this Nets series is all but over. The Philadelphia 76ers will likely be large favorites for Game 5 at home, coming back to the Wells Fargo Center on a three-game win streak after a demoralizing Game 1 loss. However, the Philadelphia 76ers aren’t out of the woods just yet. 3-1 series leads have been blown before — see: 2016 Golden State Warriors — and the Nets will be fighting for their playoff lives.

The Philadelphia 76ers are the better team, though, so as long as Brett Brown gameplans well and the players execute on the court, there’s no reason not to clinch the series Tuesday night. There are five key things the Sixers should focus on doing to ensure a victory.

1. Shut down D’Angelo Russell

One of the reasons the Philadelphia 76ers enjoy a 3-1 lead against the Nets is the exceptional defense the team has played on Russell. The Nets’ lone All-Star hasn’t played like one, being suckered into a sub-40 field goal percentage and averaging only 3.8 assists to his 3.3 turnovers. Russell’s struggles aren’t accidential — Ben Simmons has done a particularly good job defensively pressuring Russell in the backcourt and forcing Russell to his weaker right hand, which I wrote about after Game 2. 

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However, Russell’s been able to get going a bit in the past two games, finding cleaner looks from beyond the arc. In Game 4, Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers held Russell to only 2 for 10 from inside the arc, but Russell hit four of his nine threes. The Sixers need to reverse this trend in Game 5.

2. Win the turnover battle

As much as Jared Dudley would like to digress, the Philadelphia 76ers have been beating the Nets in their half court offense. The way Brooklyn’s been able to compete is turnovers. The Nets have averaged 1.3 fewer turnovers per game than the Philadelphia 76ers, one of the few statistical categories they’ve been winning, and a massive turnover differential in Game 4 allowed Brooklyn to hold the lead for most of the game.

The Sixers proved in Game 4 that they can win while losing the turnover battle, but it took a bit of luck and a lot of tough shot making down the stretch. Winning the turnover battle would make victory much more easily attainable.

3. Take and make threes

Shooting woes seem to be the only thing that can give the Philadelphia 76ers trouble in this series. In Game 1, their only loss, the Sixers shot an abysmal 3-25, or 12 percent, from beyond the arc. In Game 4, the Nets held the lead for most of the game due in no small part to 27 consecutive minutes without the Sixers hitting a three. Thankfully, at the end of Game 4, J.J. Redick and Mike Scott hit some timely threes, but in Game 1 the Sixers weren’t so lucky.

Every shooter on the Sixers this year has been streaky. It’s just a matter of making sure that the whole team doesn’t go cold all at once. Just a steady stream of good looks from three should be enough to bury Brooklyn.

4. Play to the crowd

It’s no secret that there’s some bad blood between the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets. Jimmy Butler and Jared Dudley were both thrown out in a scuffle in Game 4, and trash talking on and off the court seems to escalate every day the series goes on. The Nets, though, have been playing with the home crowd cheering their antics.

In Philly, that’s going to change. The notorious Philly crowd will most likely boo the most vocal Nets trash talkers and root on their outspoken Sixers team. The players need to take advantage of this.

Joel Embiid never seems to have trouble playing to the crowd, so it’s on the rest of the players to step up the hype for a potential playoff closeout game. If normally-quiet guys like Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris can feed off the crowd energy and get it going early, it should be game over for Brooklyn.

5. Get a healthy Embiid

When he’s on the court, Joel Embiid is an absolutely dominant force on both ends of the floor. In just 31 Game 4 minutes, Embiid put up 31 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, and a playoff-career-high six blocks. The question has become if he can stay on the court.

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Embiid has battled left knee tendinitis since the All-Star break. He will likely be a game-time decision, just as he was in the first four games of the series. If he feels healthy enough to play — and that’s a big if — the Sixers will get a big boost.