Brett Brown’s message to the 76ers heading into the closeout proposition presented Tuesday was as straightforward in delivery as it was in meaning:
Keep the focus linear, and tune out all the outside noise that’s surrounded a hotly contested opening round battle.
Throughout the evening, pretty much the only sounds the Sixers would hear were the repeated snaps of the ball going through the net, and the rounds of raucous ovations from an adoring sellout crowd.
With 20,595 on hand at The Center, the Sixers blew out the Brooklyn Nets, 122-100. The victory clinched for the Sixers their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series with Brooklyn, 4-1.
The Sixers are now bound for the second round for the second time in as many years – a first for the franchise since the 2000 and 2001 playoffs, during Allen Iverson’s heyday.
As for who’s up next? Fittingly enough, it will be another Atlantic Division foe, the very same one the Sixers squared off against in a seven-game epic in the 2001 conference semifinals – the Toronto Raptors, this season’s no. 2 seed.
In terms of Tuesday’s rout, the Sixers entered on guard, full of respect, and intent on taking Brooklyn’s spirit.
Racing out to a 14-0 lead, the Sixers not only did that, they took the Nets’ heart, and lastly their season.
With the Sixers’ defense – one of the key ingredients to their resounding turnaround after a tough Game 1 loss – clicking from the jump, Brooklyn didn’t score its first basket until nearly six minutes had been played in the opening frame.
The Sixers then went on to extend their lead to 23-2 before the stunning quarter came to a close, at which point the gap was 32-15.
It was the eighth time in franchise history the team held an opponent to 15 points or fewer in the first quarter of a postseason game. By intermission, the Sixers’ advantage had swelled to a staggering 29 points, 60-31.
The Sixers’ halftime margin marked their largest ever in the playoffs. They also matched the organization’s lowest point total allowed in the first half of a postseason tilt.
For a club that was faced with questions about chemistry and health going into this year’s opening round, Tuesday’s performance provided an emphatic punctuation, a source of further optimism with a challenging second-round opponent on the horizon.
As was the case in the previous tilts Joel Embiid played versus Brooklyn in the series, the big man proved to be a force for which there was no answer. He scored the Sixers’ first six points of the evening, eight of their first 10, and 10 of their first 14 en route to racking up 23 points and 13 rebounds.
The All-Star played only 20 minutes.
The rest of the Sixers’ starting group was sterling as well. Ben Simmons finished with a game-high plus-34 rating (13 pts / 5 reb / 6 ast), while JJ Redick (11 pts) was plus-33 and Tobias Harris (12 pts / 8 reb / 4 ast / 3 stl) and Jimmy Butler (9 pts / 5 reb / 5 ast / 3 stl) were each plus-31.
Up and down the roster, the Sixers received impact defensive contributions. The team stifled Brooklyn to the tune of 26.1% shooting in Tuesday’s first half (12-46) and 2 for 14 from 3-point territory.
The Sixers led by as many as 39 points on a memorable night. Best of all, they left little doubt that this spring, there would be more basketball.
Click here for a complete box score.
What a series for this guy.
Ending the first with a BANG :boom:
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 24, 2019
The Sixers will face the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Raptors clinched their first-round series over the Orlando Magic Tuesday with a 115-96 triumph at Scotiabank Arena. Like the Sixers, Toronto dropped the first game in the opening round, then won four straight. The Raptors bested the Sixers in the regular season series, 3-1, though all four games were played prior to the trade deadline.