The Philadelphia 76ers made plays late to steal a crucial Game 4 from the Brooklyn Nets.
After two wins to steal momentum in their first-round series with Nets, the 76ers needed several crucial plays down the stretch in the fourth-quarter to keep Brooklyn from evening things back up.
After not making a 3-pointer for a 27-minute stretch of game time, J.J. Redick and Mike Scott both hit 3s within the final minute, Scott’s coming on a broken play that almost saw Joel Embiid fumble the ball away. Those plays were surrounded by crucial Nets turnovers that could have easily preserved a win for them.
The 76ers are a different team with Joel Embiid on the floor. It kind of goes without saying but Game 4 was a reminder just how much higher Philadelphia’s ceiling is when Embiid is finishing plays and patrolling the middle on defense. After missing Game 3, and getting by with fiery performances from Tobias Harris, J.J. Redick and Ben Simmons, they won with slightly less efficient performances by all three, thanks to Embiid. The 76ers were +18 in the 31 minutes Embiid was on the floor and his 31 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and 6 blocks sum up how huge he was at both ends. His health and ability to play every game in every series are not a given, which should be concerning for the 76ers championship hopes.
This was the Caris LeVert game. LeVert appeared to be on an All-Star track early in the season but when he missed extended time with a leg injury, D’Angelo Russell supplanted his offensive primacy and took the national focus that might well have belonged to LeVert. He was a no-show in Game 2, but sensational in Game 1 and Game 3, and saved his best for Game 4. LeVert joined the starting lineup and finished with 25 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists, shooting 9-of-18 from the field and 3-of-8 on 3-pointers. With Russell drawing the bulk of Philadelphia’s defensive attention, LeVert has consistently taken advantage of his opportunities. It’s a bummer to see one of the best games of his young career end in a loss but there should be plenty more playoff wins to come.
Moar Ben Simmons. Embiid’s performance will get the headlines but Simmons has continued to put up sterling games since his Game 1 disappointment. He finished with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists, and several huge defensive plays. Russell had shot just 38 percent in the first three games when Simmons was guarding him and he certainly didn’t improve on that number in Game 4. It’s easy to fall into a trap of single-game narratives but Simmons wasted no time in smashing the idea that his lack of shooting could be an exploitable weakness for Philadelphia.