What we learned in Nets’ Game 1 loss to 76ers

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Brooklyn Nets’ Mikal Bridges, left, drives past Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey (0) in the first half during Game 1 in the first round of the NBA basketball playoffs, Saturday, April 15, 2023, in Philadelphia.
AP Photo/Derik Hamilton

PHILADELPHIA — The Nets had a gameplan going into Saturday’s Game 1 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, however, the Sixers adjusted and took apart Brooklyn’s strategy as the afternoon wore on. 

The Nets were frustrated by the final buzzer and despite a strong game out of Mikal Bridges, the rising star for Brooklyn said that his individual performance didn’t matter. He finished with 30 points in the 121-101 loss. 



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 “It feels good to make some shots, but I’d rather miss shots and win, so it’s whatever,” Bridges said.

The biggest issues for the Nets came along the offensive boards — where they were dominated by the Sixers — and the three-point shooting. Those were the two glaring areas that the Nets will need to address before Game 2 on Monday night. 

With that, here’s what we learned after the first game of the best-of-seven series. 

 Sixers 3-point shooting killed Nets

This is a fairly obvious one, and in an attempt to not make the bullet even longer, it should be noted that the 76ers realistically won’t be able to sustain the number of threes they made. Philadelphia knocked down 21 three-pointers, which set a franchise playoff record, and they attempted 43 by the time the afternoon was over. 

The Nets knew that they were going to have to give up shots during this series and be okay with it. Their strategy of double-teaming Joel Embiid meant that it would be up to the other guys on the floor to take advantage of some of the offensive opportunities. And they did that.

It took James Harden a bit of time to get hot, but he knocked down a third of the Sixers’ threes in the game, Embiid had one and 13 other Philly players knocked down at least one shot from beyond the arc.

“You got to understand personnel and where guys like to shoot from and where they don’t,” Cam Johnson said. “I think we can just do a better job of making guys, you know, knowing where guys want to shoot and don’t want to shoot from instead of giving them the one’s that they feel comfortable with. But 21 threes is a lot of threes to make in a ball game for sure.”

Again, the shots won’t fall like that in such a big way every game, but the Nets felt it this game. 

Offensive boards really mattered

In line with the 76ers’ three-point shooting, the Nets didn’t do themselves any favors by getting dominated along the offensive boards. Part of that contributed directly to the high number of threes as was mentioned above since Brooklyn knew they’d have to give up some shots, but getting beat for rebounds gave the Sixers chances to find the right look in three-point territory.

“If we take care of the offensive rebound, those you can take out of the equation,” Vaughn said. “P.J. (Tucker) made a corner three then he missed a corner three, that’s part of the game. Then you take the ones Tobias (Harris) off the bounce three, he made it with a contest over Spencer (Dinwiddie). The James (Harden) 29-footer then one off the bounce with three seconds on the clock that’s just part of basketball, you pat him on the back and say good shot. We have to be disciplined enough that the shots that we want to give up because of game-plan wise, those are ok.

“But the extra effort the you got to make this play, somehow you have to come up with the basketball we need this possession, those are the ones that hurt and have momentum.”

The final box score saw Philly outrebound Brooklyn on the offensive side of the ball by a margin of 14-3 and outscore them 21-3. 

“Throughout the majority of the game, we got some misses. But, they got two, three opportunities on some possessions and then, they adjusted to our defense throughout the game,” Seth Curry said after the loss. 

Nets’ gameplan on Joel Embiid

The MVP candidate was always going to be the main focus of the Nets’ defense and right from the jump Brooklyn was swarming the Sixers’ big man on Saturday. As soon as Embiid touched the ball he saw two Net defenders swarming him. 

The Sixers were prepared for it and Embiid, who is used to being game planned for, knew exactly what to do when that happened. He’d move the ball quickly to open shooters or the mad scramble by Brooklyn after the pass allowed the Sixers to find the right shot. 

Embiid finished with a game-high 26 points even after he was limited to just seven shot attempts in the first half. Mikal Bridges pointed out that in the second half, Embiidd played higher up to make it tougher for Brooklyn to double him. 

“They adjusted to what we were doing defensively. They put guys in different positions and they were able to combat our double teams a lot. Put Joel in the middle of the floor obviously and he was able to move the ball around,” Curry said. “Honestly, some of the stuff they did tonight, we were willing to live with. So, we got to adjust for Game 2, and that’s why it’s a series.”

The constant doubling of Embiid also played into the rebounding issue, according to Vaughn. “You’re not in your traditional spots once you start flying around,” the Nets coach said.

Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris (12) shoots over Brooklyn Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie (26) in the second half during Game 1 in the first round of the NBA basketball playoffs, Saturday, April 15, 2023, in Philadelphia.AP Photo/Derik Hamilton

The Mikal Bridges factor

The evolution of Bridges since arriving has been something to watch and his first-half effort is what kept the nets in the game early. The Nets star had 23 of his 30 points in the first half and shot 10-of-16 in the first 24 minutes of the game. 

The Sixers changed their strategy on Bridges in the second half, limiting him to just seven points and just one shot attempt. Afterward, Bridges said that they started blitzing him in the second half.

Still, Bridges’ effort should give Nets fans hope that they have the right stuff to make this a series, and it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Philly extended their lead beyond 12 points. 

For more Nets coverage, visit amNY.com and our affiliate site at TheBrooklynGame.com



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