Nets now on the brink of elimination after Game 3 loss in Brooklyn

Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden, left, and Brooklyn Nets’ Mikal Bridges scramble for the ball during the second half in Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Thursday, April 20, 2023, in New York.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

BROOKLYN — The Nets will remember this one for a while. 

Thursday’s loss in Game 3 to the Philadelphia 76ers had a little bit of everything in what became a 102-97 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 3 of the series. It will be the refs decision not to toss Joel Embiid from the game after he kicked Nic Claxton in the leg near his groin, to assess James Harden a Flagrant 2 in the third and eject him and T up Claxton twice and send him to the locker room early that will get most of the focus, but the Nets made crucial errors that cost them as well. 

There was a bad inbounds pass on the final possession of the game that allowed the Sixers to steal it away. The Nets struggled along the offensive boards once again and the Nets took just 30 threes, knocking down 10, which was well below what head coach Jacque Vaughn likes to see from beyond the arc.

“It boiled down to the offensive rebounds again,” Vaughn said. “Their ability to gain some possessions when we kept telling our guys to continue to reward yourself. You’re getting the initial stop now you gotta hit somebody and come away with it. It doesn’t look as skewed in the offensive rebounds I think 11 to 8 but some of those ends up being fouls and then you’re in the bonus.

“Some of those are direct putbacks, some of those end up being threes for them.”

The Nets had momentum at times in what was a physical game between the Sixers and Nets that is sure to carry over into Game 4. Embiid found himself at the heart of the scrappiness, but Brooklyn punched back for most of the night even in the final quarter as the two teams traded baskets. 

Brooklyn had carried an 82-76 lead into the final 12 minutes after outscoring Philly 35-18 in the third quarter. The 17-point advantage in third-quarter scoring was the franchise’s largest in its playoff history. However, as things have gone in this series, the 76ers found a way to turn things.

Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden reacts to a foul called on him during the second half against the Brooklyn Nets in Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Thursday, April 20, 2023, in New York. After review, he was given a flagrant foul two, and ejected from the game.AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

“We had turnovers,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “You know, obviously they kind of converted shots and you know Embiid obviously even though he’s not putting up necessarily Embiid style numbers, he’s still a problem just because we have to double. And then you know, rotations and then you know, their guys knocking down some shots.”

The script to this series has seemed all too familiar for the Nets. Brooklyn heads into Game 4 on the brink of elimination and being swept out of the first round for the second consecutive season. 

Similar to Brooklyn’s series with the Boston Celtics last year, the Nets played competitively at points, but never could match what their opponent was doing for the full game. Now the Nets will try to stave off what feels like certain elimination with the chaoticness of Thursday’s game possibly still fresh in their minds.

Though Dinwiddie wasn’t concerned it would weigh on his team too much.

“I think we understand the gravity of the situation,” Dinwiddie said. ” So I don’t think we’re using necessarily the refs as more fuel or something of that nature. I mean, we have a tall task in front of us and we have a next-game mentality.” 

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