Russell flashed some postseason magic, playing like the All-Star leader Brooklyn needed with 26 points, and Caris LeVert scored 23 to lead the Nets to an impressive 111-102 win Saturday over the 76ers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series. Jimmy Butler was the only player that actually had a good game, while the rest of the Sixers' stars shrunk in the spotlight. The over/under is set at 225.5 points.
Yet it was the Brooklyn's bench that was the x-factor of the afternoon, outscoring Philadelphia's second unit 59- 26.
Brooklyn will have a golden opportunity to show the National Basketball Association that it is for real tonight for Game 2 back in Philadelphia (8 p.m. ET, YES, TNT).
Back in the postseason for the first time since 2015, the Brooklyn Nets defended well, produced plenty of offense and flustered the Philadelphia 76ers at times in Game 1. Philly suffered due to having a half fit Embiid and if he isn't fully fit the Sixers will feel they are just better off executing a plan without him than alter everything around his limited minutes and limited play. The good news is that after being doubtful prior to Saturday's game, he's only questionable at this point. Much of that carried over into Game 1 where they had quarters of 20 and 17 points. Philly is 51-32 on the season, 31-11 at home, 38-45 against the spread and 43-40 with the over. Unfortunately for them, the 76ers are such a talented team that it's nearly inevitable they'll play better than they did in Game 1. Then, ESPN cameras caught Amir Johnson showing Joel Embiidsomething on his cellphone on the bench in the middle of the game while the 76ers were down double-digits.
For the 76ers, Jimmy Butler scored a game-high 36 points and pulled down nine rebounds, while Joel Embiid chipped in with 22 points and 15 rebounds. However, as luck would have it, they were matched up with the 7 seeded but extremely well coached and disciplined San Antonio Spursteam. Embiid alone was 0 for 5.
Simmons had less to say about his performance and why he was only able to produce nine points and seven rebounds including going just 1 of 5 from the free-throw line. He missed 12 of the Sixers' last 22 regular-season games.
Popovich passed Lenny Wilkens (1,412 wins) and Don Nelson (1,410). The 76ers should definitely shoot better today. The Nets aren't lacking in confidence and their bench is healthy and eager to prove themselves.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The Warriors blocked 14 shots in Game 1, getting three each by Durant, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala.
Russell, on the other hand, scored 16 points in the first half and finished out the game with 16, in large part due to a dominant defensive effort primarily led by the 6-foot-10 Aussie.
"I think earlier in the season, especially when we were struggling, we'd lose games like that", coach Kenny Atkinson said.