The stage is set for South Philly for the 2023 Sixers Playoffs. First round — bring on The Brooklyn Nets.
As the Sixers 2023 Playoffs kick off in just six days, there are some burning questions surrounding their first-round matchup against the Brooklyn Nets. While this season has been a great success for the Sixers, the playoffs are where they will truly be tested. Here are some of the key questions we have as we preview this Eastern Conference showdown. Let’s go Philadelphia 76ers!
How will the Nets stop Joel Embiid?
It’s no secret that Joel Embiid is the star player for the Sixers, (and should shine throughout the 2023 Sixers Playoffs) and the Nets will have their hands full trying to contain him. In their only matchup this season, Embiid put up an impressive performance against the Nets, scoring 37 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Nic Claxton has been the primary defender on Embiid, but the Nets will need to develop a game plan around him to stop Embiid’s dominance. (We think this 2023 Sixers Playoffs run will be Joe’s best showing yet.)
One strategy that could work for the Nets is to focus on Embiid’s “money spots” around the elbows. This would allow long-armed defenders like Mikal Bridges and Dorian Finney-Smith to pinch in and shrink the floor around Embiid if he tries to attack the middle. However, the Sixers have shown they can work around this by loading up one side of the floor and letting Embiid attack the empty side.
Another challenge for the Nets is if Claxton gets into foul trouble. He’s their best option against Embiid, and if he’s taken out of the game, the Sixers could exploit that weakness.
Can the Nets’ length on the wing cause problems for the 2023 Sixers Playoffs? The Nets have a number of athletic wing players that could give the Sixers’ defensively challenged backcourt some trouble. Tyrese Maxey, in particular, could struggle against the Nets’ size and athleticism. This matchup will be a test for Maxey, who will need to beat bigger, longer defenders to get his shots.
However, the Nets will also have to deal with subpar defenders in order to boost their bench scoring. This could open up opportunities for players like Seth Curry, Cam Thomas, and Joe Harris.
How will James Harden perform physically?
This 2023 Sixers Playoffs run in a paramount for the team and players alike. James Harden’s performance could be a deciding factor in this series. If he’s able to beat switches and isolation defense, the Nets will have a hard time making this a competitive series. However, if the Sixers can prevent him from generating any momentum, the Nets could have a chance.
Harden vs. Claxton on a switch will be a key matchup to watch, and the Sixers will need Harden to be a consistent threat off the dribble to take the pressure off of Embiid. While they don’t need him to be relentless, they do need him to be a consistent scoring threat.
And lastly, the only question left is, as the 2023 Sixers Playoffs get into full swing — what will Ben Simmons wear on the bench?
Cue up the Sixers Song — Sixers in 5.