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Nets look to get off the deck in Game 3

Return to Barclays Center tied at 1-1 following beatdown in Philly

April 16, 2019 JT Torenli
Joel Embiid’s vicious elbow on Jarrett Allen drew blood and seemed to spark the Sixers and take a little of the fight out of the Brooklyn Nets Monday night in Philadelphia. AP Photo/Chris Szagola

The Nets could choose to dwell on the Game 2 beatdown they suffered in Philadelphia on Monday night.

But that simply hasn’t been their modus operandi during this surprising turnaround season in Downtown Brooklyn.

“Yeah, look on the positive side. They came back, they played a heck of a game,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson ceded matter-of-factly after Brooklyn endured a 145-123 thumping at the hands of Joel Embiid and the 76ers in front of a sellout crowd of 20,591 at the Wells Fargo Center.

“It’s 1-1, we got back to Brooklyn.”

Make no mistake, the Nets weren’t settling for a split of the initial two games of the franchise’s first postseason series in four years.

But after stunning Philadelphia with a 111-102 triumph in Game 1 on Saturday, Brooklyn was only able to stay with the desperate Sixers for one half on Monday night.

Spencer Dinwiddie scored 19 points, D’Angelo Russell added 16 and Caris LeVert had 13 as the Nets were ultimately unable to put a stranglehold on the series.

Embiid’s vicious elbow to the head and neck area of second-year Nets center Jarrett Allen late in the first half resulted in a flagrant 1 call on Brooklyn’s perennial nemesis.

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It also seemed to spark the previously dormant Sixers into a record-setting third-quarter performance that saw the Nets yield 51 points and fall into a 30-point hole.

Embiid, who is nursing a tendinitis issue in his left knee, scored 11 points during a 21-2 spurt to begin the second half and Brooklyn never recovered.

However, the Nets were quick to own up to the defeat and turn their attention to Game 3, which will be on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues Thursday night.

“The old story if you would have told us before [the series] we’re splitting here in Philly I think we’d be happy,” Atkinson said. “But not pleased in the way we presented ourselves today.

“One bad quarter, we’re going to have to flush it and understand, one thing about the Brooklyn Nets this season, they’ve always bounced back and always responded after a game like this. I expect our guys to respond.”

That’s a fair assessment from a third-year coach who watched this resilient squad rebound from an 8-18 start to this season as well as a seemingly constant slew of injuries to key players, including LeVert and Dinwiddie.

With their playoff hopes on the line during the regular season’s final week, the Nets also found a way to win three straight games to nail down the team’s first playoff berth since 2015.

And now, they simply need to put Game 2 behind them and roll into Brooklyn with the same bravado that has made them one of the more enjoyable teams to watch on the NBA circuit this year.

“I think at the end of the day, although we had a difficult loss tonight, we did what we hoped we would do,” noted Joe Harris, who endured a difficult Game 2 with only four points in 26 minutes.

“We came down, split, and now we get to go back and play on our home court in front of our home fans. … I think we’re just all very excited to go back home and play in front of our home fans.”

After managing just four points in Game 2 Monday night, Joe Harris hopes to rediscover his shooting touch Thursday night in Downtown Brooklyn. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
After managing just four points in Game 2 Monday night, Joe Harris hopes to rediscover his shooting touch Thursday night in Downtown Brooklyn. AP Photo/Chris Szagola

 

As they should be.

Brooklyn hasn’t hosted a postseason game since the Nets lost a series-ending Game 6 to Atlanta here on May 1, 2015.

Nets fans will be in full throat at a sold-out Barclays Center to welcome back their team, which began this series as a heavy underdog but appears primed to give the Sixers all they can handle over the next two weeks.

“Just sticking to our principles,” said Allen, who was bloodied but unbowed after taking Embiid’s big blow, which many felt could have resulted in a flagrant 2 and automatic ejection for the Sixers’ big man.

“We can’t let them have another third quarter like we did,” Allen added after finishing with nine points and six rebounds. “We just have to come in with another mentality that they’re going to be physical. It worked for them this game so they’re going to try to bring it back next game.”

And every game thereafter, according to Atkinson, who saw his team get outmuscled on the boards by a whopping 49-32 count Monday night.

“I think [Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown] said before the series started it’s going to be a fistfight and they threw a couple punches,” Atkinson said. “I have no comment on the call [against Embiid].

“But again, very, very physical. Great experience for our guys to understand what playoff basketball is all about. I know this, we have to respond.”

As far as responses go, the Nets have had a season full of them, overcoming virtually every obstacle in their path on the way to this first-round series.

Thursday night should be no different, especially back in Brooklyn where the Nets went 23-18 en route to their first winning season in five years.

Game 4 is also at Barclays on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m.

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