That’s what Howard Eskin would say.
The King would tell all of you panicky Sixer fans to get a dog, and I see a lot of y’all out there. I see a lot of y’all on social media calling for the first round upset, saying the Sixers can’t defend guards, saying they can’t defend a pick and roll, and saying that Brett Brown can’t coach.
And listen, I get all of that, so allow me to address it:
The Nets are a tricky matchup. They have good back court players. Their guards get hot and they will run about 4,000 spread pick and rolls per game. They beat the Sixers twice this season and Philly needed a buzzer-beater to escape with a late win in New York City. The second win came at the Wells Fargo Center while the Nets were on the 7th game of a ridiculous seven-game road trip. You look at the regular season and even go back to 2017 and understand that this is a squad that has given Philly some fits.
But people said the same thing last year. “Miami will be a tough out!” The Sixers and Heat split the season series and then Philly went out and won 4-1 in the playoffs. Joel Embiid didn’t even play in two of those games. Miami was physical, sure, and they made some shots, but the Sixers just had too much talent, and it showed.
So when I look at this matchup on the surface, I only see 2-3 areas where Brooklyn has the edge. Here’s how I’d analyze that:
- overall talent level: Sixers
- home court advantage: Sixers
- playoff experience: Sixers
- coaching: push
- bench/depth: Nets
- size: Sixers
- weight of expectations: this benefits the Nets (there’s exponentially more pressure on Philly)
- three-point shooting: Sixers rank 8th, Nets 14th
- field-goal shooting: Sixers rank 8th, Nets 25th
- effective field goal %: Sixers 8th, Nets 18th
- offensive rebounding: Nets rank 10th, Sixers 11th
- defensive rating: it’s the same exact number, 108.9
- offensive rating: Sixers 8th, Nets 19th
- net rating: Sixers 11th, Nets 15th
- turnover percentage: Sixers 24th, Nets 25th
Across the board, the Sixers win in pretty much every statistical category. But to expand on a couple of those bullet points, after the jump:
- The Sixers have two All-Stars and a former All-Star in their starting five. Brooklyn has one.
- All five Sixers starters have playoff experience. Jarrett Allen, D’Angelo Russell, and Caris LeVert have played zero postseason games. Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris have played 7 combined. Brett Brown has now coached 10 playoff games while Kenny Atkinson has coached zero.
- Brooklyn’s bench is much better. In a limited rotation of 8 or so players, the Sixers will need more from their top-heavy roster to deal with guys like Dinwiddie coming off the pine.
- The Sixers have a huge front court advantage. Jarrett Allen is a solid overall player and a good defender, but he’s 20 years old and entering his first playoff series having to match up against Joel Embiid. They bring Ed Davis off the bench as their backup center, and he’s giving up two inches and 25 pounds to Joel. A healthy Embiid who stays out of foul trouble puts up 30 and 13 in this series with relative ease.
- Brooklyn shoots the 5th most three-pointers per game, but only scores the 14th most. They can be inefficient in this department.
- The Nets do not light the world on fire in their defensive half of the floor. They are a very average defensive team.
- Their turnover numbers are just as bad as the Sixers.
To that last point, Brooklyn is giving up 17.3 points per game off turnovers. They also concede 14.4 second chance points. Both of those numbers are bottom-six in the league.
They are, however, a good team in transitional defense, and they only allow 11.8 fast break points, which is 4th overall in the NBA. You can turn them over and get offensive rebounds and cheap buckets, but they do limit cheap drives and run outs, so keep an eye on how they leverage that strength into limiting Ben Simmons in space.
Everybody who is concerned about this series is concerned about one thing and one thing only, and that’s guard play. Here’s how Brooklyn’s guards performed against the Sixers this season:
- Russell: 21 points on 19.5 shots, 28.6% from three, 7.3 assists, 3.5 rebounds
- Dinwiddie: 23.8 points on 13 shots, 61.1% from three, 5.5 assists, 2 rebounds
- Harris: 14 points on 9.3 shots, 55.6% from three, 1.5 assists, 2 rebounds
- LeVert: 19 points on 17 shots, 42.9% from three, 2.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds
- Crabbe: 8.3 points on 7.7 shots, 29.4% from three, 0.7 assists, 2 rebounds
Dinwiddie had the couple of big games, with 39 and 31 points, but he also put up 12 and 13 in the other two matchups.
Russell’s numbers against the Sixers are below his season averages. He had 38 points in the home loss, then put up 21, 12, and 13 in the other three games. The most recent outing was an incredibly poor performance that skews that number, certainly, but on the season he averaged 21.1 points on 18.7 shots per game while shooting 36.9% from three. So Russell is hitting that scoring average against the Sixers, he’s just doing it in a less efficient way.
Elton Brand is on the record saying he’s happy with the Sixers’ high-level three-point and rim defense, while admitting that the club is okay with giving up mid-range stuff like this:
If Jarrett Allen beats you with one-handed floaters while the Nets send one guy to the offensive glass, then so be it.
But if the Sixers can climb over screens and be more active in attacking pick and roll ball handlers, you get plays like this:
That’s pretty much the entire series right there. The Sixers have more talent, more experience, and home court advantage. If you let a team like Brooklyn spread pick and roll you out of the first round, then you might as well just scrap this squad and the entire coaching staff and start over again.
And I understand that some people would like to see that. Some people would like to see the Sixers fall flat on their face in order to get Brett Brown fired, get somebody else in here, install a new system, and try another path forward. You are 100% justified in feeling how you feel, just don’t let that subconsciously trick you into thinking the Nets are a better team than the Sixers, because they aren’t. I’m on the record saying the Sixers go out to the Raptors in round two in six or seven games.
But outside of 2-3 matchup wrinkles, there’s very little reason to be concerned with a 42-40 Brooklyn Nets team in round one.
If you’re scared, get a dog.