The Philadelphia 76ers didn’t enjoy themselves during Game 1 against the Brooklyn Nets, flopping at home in embarrassing fashion. Part of the issue in that particular contest was that the duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid struggled to create efficient offense and, given the nature of Embiid’s knee injury and Simmons’ uneven playoff track record, the pressure was on in Game 2 on Monday evening. 48 minutes later, however, the Sixers passed the test with flying colors, using a massive run in the third quarter to take care of business with a 145-123 victory to even the series.
At the outset, the Sixers gained traction with an 11-0 run to grab an early lead, and they were keyed by the energy and aggressive of Simmons.
The Nets wouldn’t fade, though, throwing haymakers in the form of a three-point barrage to keep things interesting, led by D’Angelo Russell with 16 first-half points.
Still, the Sixers threatened to pull away at various moments, including a 12-3 run to take a 44-31 lead early in the second period. Part of their uptick was predictably keyed by Simmons and Embiid.
The Nets did make things interesting and, bizarrely, flagrant fouls became the story down the stretch of the second quarter. First, Embiid was nearly ejected after delivering a controversial elbow to the face of Brooklyn’s Jarrett Allen.
Eventually, that was called a Flagrant-1 foul on Embiid, allowing him to stay in the game. In short order, Nets forward Rodions Kurucs got into the action, committing what would become a Flagrant-1 in his own right.
For a brief moment, it appeared as if the Nets may steal the lead heading into the halftime break but, at the free throw line, Philadelphia managed to sneak ahead by a 65-64 margin. The attention of the first half centered on Simmons but teammate Boban Marjanovic enjoyed a monster start, scoring 14 points and grabbing six rebounds in his first 11 minutes of action.
Not to be outdone, Simmons posted 16 points, six rebounds and six assists to great fanfare.
Given the improved play of Simmons in particular, the Nets had to feel fortunate to be in the game at the break but, in a hurry, things flipped in Philly’s direction. Embiid dominated the opening moments of the second half, springing to a 7-0 run on his own to make things more comfortable for his team.
The Sixers weren’t done there, eventually turning that individual 7-0 spurt into a 21-2 overall run. When the dust settled after a steal and finish from Simmons, Philadelphia suddenly led by a 20-point margin at 86-66.
The home team kept it rolling after that barrage, putting together another 13-3 run that was keyed by the trio of Tobias Harris, J.J. Redick and Mike Scott. That spurt put the Sixers up by 26 points and, eventually, Philadelphia would lead by 29 points after 36 minutes of action. All told, the Sixers converted a blistering 72 percent of their shots in the period, with Embiid, Harris and Scott reaching double-figures to help the team tie the NBA Playoff record with 51 points.
That explosion ensured that the fourth quarter was quiet and, of course, the damage was done. At the end of the night, Brett Brown and company could celebrate a statement-worthy win and the prominent (and youthful) duo of Simmons and Embiid were in the middle of it all.
Simmons posted a triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists, with Embiid adding 23 points and 10 rebounds in only 22 minutes of on-court action. There were other strong performance on Philadelphia’s side — headlined by Marjanovic, Harris, Redick and Scott — but the tone was set by the stars and the Sixers will head to Brooklyn in a much friendlier position than they were in over the weekend.