— Uriah Young
The Sixers face a familiar first-round foe with the Brooklyn Nets. With home court advantage and a healthy roster of key players, this matchup is ideal for Philly. Not only did the 76ers sweep the regular season series, Doc Rivers’ team beat the Nets when they had Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Now, without a go-to star, which is essential for playoff success, Jacques Vaughn will have to lean on Mikal Bridges.
Yes, Mikal Bridges is coming into his own as a Net, but he will need to carry the offensive load for his team to have a shot. He never had to do that as a Sun with Devin Booker and Chris Paul, especially in the postseason. The only other bright spot for Brooklyn is Nic Claxton as a defensive anchor and a bench spark in Cam Thomas. Players like Cameron Johnson and Dorian Finney-Smith could make a difference, but it won’t be enough. Will Seth Curry or Spencer Dinwiddie, both in their 30s, be able to keep up with Tyrese Maxey? We already know the answer.
In the end, the Sixers have too much fire power and depth. Important pieces to Philly’s rebuilt reserve unit, which includes De’Anthony Melton and Jaden McDaniels, offer versatility that Royce O’Neale and Joe Harris cannot match. Can those players knock down 3-pointers? Of course, but so can Georges Niang and Shake Milton. Don’t forget about Paul Reed’s interior play as of late, which could serve as a catalyst if Rivers gives him backup center minutes.
The Nets will steal a game, but that’s about it. Expect Joel Embiid to dominate the middle and James Harden to show Brooklyn how silly they were to trade him away for Ben Simmons.
Final prediction: Sixers in 5