After an embarrassing Game 1 loss to the Nets, the 76ers used a historic 51-point third quarter to even their series.
Game 2 between the 76ers and Nets was settled in the third quarter. The first half was defined by runs, with the 76ers pulling away and the Nets closing the gap. Ben Simmons looked more engaged and Boban Marjanovic came in and made some buckets, positive signs for Philadelphia. But given their loss in Game 1, and the fact that they still weren’t able to keep Spencer Dinwiddie or Caris LeVert in front of them, things were tense.
And then they came out of the locker room and simply blitzed the Nets into oblivion. Philadelphia scored 51 points in the third quarter, tied for the most in any playoff quarter in the shot clock era. When the fourth quarter began, the 76ers had a 29-point lead and it was all over but the Greg Monroe mop-up minutes.
Ben Simmons is okay. The story from the first game was Simmons’ overall ineffectiveness. The Nets sagged off of him, clogging the space in the paint he likes to operate in and daring him to shoot. He mostly answered the challenge with passivity and was even booed by some particularly salty home fans. The scheme was largely the same tonight but the passivity was gone. Simmons played fantastic defense on D’Angelo Russell, pushed the ball in transition and generally looked much more willing to attack, regardless of what was in front of him. He finished with a triple-double and, for one night at least, put an end to any discussion about his lack of shooting being an exploitable weakness for the 76ers.
The Nets are still scoring. Their defense failed them in that epic third quarter but the Nets still put up 120 points. Russell had a tougher time with Simmons defending him tonight but he was far from shut down and LeVert and Dinwiddie still seemed able to get into the teeth of the defense at will. Their outside shooters hit 15-of-36 3-pointers and they were able to chase down a dozen offensive rebounds. If they can just get some stops in Game 3 they should be right back on the upset trail.
The strength of the 76ers is inside. How’s this for dominance — Philadelphia scored 145 points with just nine made 3-pointers. They did it by bludgeoning Brooklyn inside, racking up 15 offensive rebounds, 62 points in the paint and adding another 26 points at the free throw line. The 76ers have an enormous size advantage and Brooklyn wasn’t able to run big lineups off the floor by countering with small ball. The shooting in Philadelphia’s starting lineup may be shaky but they don’t have to hit 3s to put up huge point totals.