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 /

2. P.J. Tucker vs. Mikal Bridges

Mikal Bridges in averaging 27.2 points per game on 60.7 percent true shooting since arriving in Brooklyn. Once considered an elite complementary talent, perhaps the ideal 3-and-D wing, the former Sixers draft pick has expanded his arsenal with remarkable effectiveness.

All of a sudden, Bridges is a mid-range savant who has no problem creating his own looks off the dribble. Let Bridges curl around a screen and get a step going downhill, and the defense might as well waive the white flag. His footwork, high release, and effortless touch on jumpers is the stuff stars are made of.

One has to expect P.J. Tucker will draw the Bridges matchup to open the series, with intermixed stints of Melton and Tobias Harris to keep looks varied. But Tucker was signed for the express purpose of providing the Sixers with a tough-nosed, defensive-minded stopper in the playoffs. He was signed for moments like this — to give Bridges absolute hell whenever he touches the ball.

We have seen Tucker’s physicality bother the game’s best perimeter scorers in years past. This is Bridges’ first postseason as “the guy,” and he doesn’t necessarily have the muscle to handle Tucker’s brute force at the point of attack. If Tucker can get Bridges out of wack, Brooklyn simply doesn’t have the offensive firepower to keep pace with Philadelphia.