3 key matchups in 76ers’ first round series vs. Nets

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia 76ers will face the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the 2023 NBA playoffs. While much of the intrigue around that matchup has subsided with the absence of Ben Simmons (not to mention the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving trades), the Sixers will still have the opportunity to stamp out the competitive flame of a division rival.

As the No. 3 seed, Philly will enter the series as heavy favorites. Brooklyn is below .500 since the trade deadline and the Nets simply don’t have the star power of top-tier contenders. That said, the Nets will not go away quietly and the Sixers of all teams cannot afford lapses in focus once the playoffs arrive. It will take a complete team effort to take care of business.

As for matchups that could decide the arc of the series, these three in particular will carry significant weight for the Sixers.

These matchups could determine the 76ers vs. Nets series

3. De’Anthony Melton vs. Spencer Dinwiddie

While De’Anthony Melton won’t start games for Philadelphia, he still figures to play a significant role because of his defensive acumen. Solid perimeter defenders are all the more important in the postseason and Melton’s reliability at the point of attack — combined with his talent for creating turnovers and gaining possessions — should make him a 25-30 minute staple most nights.

Melton is likely the Sixers’ best answer to Spencer Dinwiddie. While Dinwiddie isn’t the Nets’ primary scorer, he does operate as the head of the snake in a traditional point guard sense. He brings the ball up the floor and his dribble penetration is often what sets Brooklyn’s halfcourt offense in motion.

If Melton can harass Dinwiddie on the perimeter and keep him out of the paint, it will do wonders for Philly’s defensive integrity overall. Year after year, the Sixers have struggled to contain dynamic point guards — especially on the biggest stage. Melton was supposed to be part of the solution, and he has mostly delivered on that promise in his first year with Philadelphia. Now, he has the chance to prove it in the postseason.