The last time the Nets welcomed the Philadelphia 76ers to town, Brooklyn saw its season come to an end.
After being swept by Philadelphia in an Eastern Conference first-round playoff series this past spring, the Nets will be out for revenge on Sunday afternoon when the teams reconvene in New York.
If Brooklyn wants to redeem itself, it will have to do so short-handed.
The Nets will be without guards Ben Simmons (back) and Cam Thomas (ankle). Simmons, a former Sixer, didn’t play against his former team during last season’s playoff series, while Thomas saw limited action and averaged just three points.
However, Thomas was off to a hot start this season, with an average of 26.9 points through eight games (seven starts) before being sidelined.
The Nets’ Lonnie Walker IV has started to shine in the absence of Simmons and Thomas.
In the five games in which both Thomas and Simmons have been out, Walker has averaged 16.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists while shooting 49.2 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from 3-point range.
Walker, most recently, scored a season-high 23 points in the Nets’ 122-115 loss to the Miami Heat on Thursday.
“He’s just continuing to make plays for us on both ends of the floor,” Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn said of Walker. “He’s flying around on the defensive end of the floor, which we need. And then offensively, you see his ability to attack the rim.”
Even while playing alongside Mikal Bridges (20.5 points per game), Cameron Johnson (14.6) and Spencer Dinwiddie (12.3), Walker might not move the needle enough for the Nets to keep up with a daunting Philadelphia offense.
The 76ers average the third-most points per game (120.4) in the NBA entering play on Saturday, with the three-headed monster of Joel Embiid (31.9), Tyrese Maxey (26.9) and Tobias Harris (20.3) accounting for 65.7 percent of that scoring.
That trio had its way in a 126-116 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night, as Embiid netted 32 points, Harris recorded a 29-point, 10-rebound double-double and Maxey finished with 19 points and eight assists.
With all three players in sync, Philadelphia coach Nick Nurse has been able to get creative with the rotation.
Nurse switched things up against Atlanta, leaving Maxey in for the entire third quarter rather than taking him out late. Maxey usually opens the fourth with Harris while Embiid gets a rest, but that was not the case on Friday.
“You’ve got to coach the game that’s in front of you,” Nurse said. “It just felt like it was clicking. They had a really great rhythm going. It’s just, sometimes, even though you’re trying to think about later, sometimes you’ve got to coach the three minutes in front of you.”
Maxey was a thorn in Brooklyn’s side during the first round of the postseason, when he shot 50 percent from deep and led the Sixers with 21.8 points per game.
Not only did Philadelphia dominate the Nets during the playoffs, but it also did so during the regular season, winning all four meetings between the teams.
Brooklyn last beat the 76ers on March 10, 2022.
–Field Level Media
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