Five Thoughts From The Nets' 112-108 Game 4 Loss to The 76ers, Including Player Ejections And Nets' Player Grades (Video)Read Now
Here are five thoughts from the Nets' game 4 loss to the 76ers on Saturday afternoon at the Barclays Center. Philadelphia now leads this best of seven playoff series 3-1.
1. Jared Dudley vs. Everyone
The thirteen-year veteran is, in many ways, the heartbeat and identity of this year's Nets team. His veteran presence and stability has allowed a player like D'Angelo Russell to flourish, and he's an adult in the locker room to help get head coach Kenny Atkinson's messages heard.
We know about the comments Dudley made regarding 76ers guard Ben Simmons prior to game three. Simmons responded and put it on Dudley and the Nets. In game four, it was obvious Dudley came out with the intention of setting a tone. Anytime he was matched up on Simmons (which is a clear advantage for the 76ers) Dudley would be extra physical, using his leverage and veteran savvy to frustrate the second-year guard. After a big defensive stop on Simmons in the first half, Dudley was extra charged up, clapping vehemently and imploring the crowd at Barclays Center to let the 76ers hear them. Shortly thereafter on a 76ers turnover, Dudley was inbounding the ball and he rushed to grab the ball, going through Simmons who was "in the way" as he was trying to get the game moving. He later hit a three and taunted Simmons.
Dudley's intentions were clear from the jump. The 76ers were not going to come into Brooklyn and punk the Nets. Yes, Philadelphia may be the more talented team. But Dudley wanted his teammates (whom are all playoff neophytes) to recognize that the playoffs are about leveling up and you must match the opponent's physicality.
This all reached a boiling point in the third quarter. Jarrett Allen was going up for a shot at the rim and Joel Embiid blocked him and the refs called a foul. On the replay and in the arena it looked like mostly ball, but also a "hard playoff foul." Dudley took exception, came charging in and pushed Embiid. A brief melee ensued, Dudley and Jimmy Butler were issued double technicals and ejected, and Embiid was charged with a flagrant foul.
This decision seemed a bit overboard as no punches were thrown. But the officials wanted to take charge of a game and a series that has gotten very chippy. On the surface it was a win for the Nets, Dudley was able to get one of the 76ers most important players in Butler ejected.
Following the game, a lot was said on both sides about Dudley, the physicality and ejections.
Embiid and Butler said they knew something was coming from Dudley.
Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson talked about Jared Dudley postgame and what he means to the team.
2. Playoff Intensity
There is a level of physicality that the playoffs bring. You are playing the same team, a minimum of four times, a maximum of seven over the course of two weeks. The bumps and touches on screens and in the post get more agitating as the series progresses. The defense is stingier and tighter. The stakes are also higher.
Saturday afternoon's game was pivotal for both squads. Going back to Philadelphia for game five, with the series tied at 2-2 or the 76ers leading 3-1 would be huge either way.
The series has gotten more physical, these teams don't like each other, and there has been a lot of talking. This is playoff basketball. The last two games, the 76ers have ratcheted up their intensity and the Nets were unable to match. For most of game four the Nets were the aggressors, and save for a few miscues down the stretch, this game was theirs for the taking.
Following the game, Caris LeVert and D'Angelo Russell talked about the intensity of the series and the challenge of staying mentally connected for 48 minutes in a playoff game.
3. Kenny Atkinson's playoff coaching
Much like his team, the grade is incomplete until the series ends. Whether that's on Tuesday in Philadelphia or if the Nets can get it back to Brooklyn for a game six on Thursday will impact his overall "coaching grade." But for his first time as a head coach, he's shown some flexibility and is willing to admit errors and mistakes.
One of the hallmarks of this team is their preparedness for games. Credit Atkinson and his staff. They have a game plan and the players do their best to execute. There is a fine line between overreacting to everything and making adjustments to help your team win. Caris LeVert has been the Nets' best player this series. He had been coming off the bench, until Atkinson started him on Saturday. LeVert played a team high 42 minutes and scored 25 points, grabbed 5 rebounds and handed out 6 assists. He was efficient on offense and connected on defense.
The Nets were better defensively on Saturday, Atkinson scrapped the zone and sent doubles at Embiid and backed off Simmons. The Nets were up six points with under six minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Down the stretch there were some questionable calls, turnovers, and with the game in the balance the ball was in Jarrett Allen's hands for the Nets. The latter is not ideal, but they were in this game.
No doubt there were some play calls Atkinson would like to have back, but in the end, he is learning about playoff basketball on the fly much like his young team.
Prior to the game, Atkinson spoke on the pressures of playoff basketball.
4. Joel Embiid is good at basketball
Stop the presses. That was an earth shattering statement. This is an all NBA center and someone who might finish in the top 5 in MVP voting this season. He played 32 minutes and finished the game with 31 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists, 6 blocks and 2 steals. A monster performance after missing game three with tendinitis.
In the first half he played just under eleven minutes and had 11 points. He took it to the Nets in the second half, reading the double team, making the correct pass. When single covered he faced up and went straight into his move, and he and Ben Simmons had a nice two man game working.
There are stretches where Embiid looks like the most dominant player in the league. He has that capability and is a future league MVP, if he can stay healthy. The Nets have no answer for him and neither does anyone else.
Following the game, Ben Simmons talked about the two man game between himself and Embiid.
5. Nets Player grades
Joe Harris - 2 stars
He finished with 10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals and was a +9. Harris was better connected defensively and aggressive getting through and around screens on Saturday. However, his three ball has gone missing in the postseason. He has only made three from long distance this series and is shooting under 20%. He led the league during the regular season at 47%. That means he's due for a big game five, right?
Jared Dudley - 3 stars
He would've gotten 0 stars last game, if that's how my arbitrary system worked. But for as bad as he was in game three, he was excellent in game four. The box stats won't jump out at you. 8 points, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, and a +12. It was his energy and intensity that fueled the Nets for much of this game, despite being ejected in the third quarter. But his "spirited play" got Jimmy Butler ejected, that's a win for the Nets.
Jarrett Allen - 2 stars
Yes, the box score says 21 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and a +5. However, he mostly finished lobs, which is a good thing. But those points were largely invisible and in the game's crucial moments he fell to the floor going to the basket for the potential game winner and got the ball taken from him by Ben Simmons.
D'Angelo Russell - 3 stars
He has a tough matchup going against Ben Simmons, who is an All NBA level defender. Still, he finished with 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. Not the most efficient game from the floor, but was 4-9 from deep. He hit a couple big shots late, and his ball fake before he goes to the three is masterful.
Caris LeVert - 4 stars
As mentioned earlier. He got the start, played a team high 42 minutes and led the team in scoring. He was very good on both ends and is the Nets best player.
Spencer Dinwiddie - 3 stars
This was tough. Dinwiddie had a very efficient offensive game, scoring 18 points on 12 shots, and he was 3-6 from deep. He had a rough afternoon on defense committing 5 fouls and getting caught on a couple screens and pin downs.
DeMarre Carroll, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson & Treveon Graham - 1 star each
All three very ineffective in their time on the floor, a combined 0-12 and a -29.