NEW YORK - Kenny Atkinson and the Nets will, the Sixers know, make adjustments Thursday night following their 145-123 loss in Game 2.
But the tactical nuances of when and how the Nets use their zone defense or whether Brooklyn will do anything to counter Boban Marjanovic's jump shooting are not what's most compelling heading into Game 3.
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While it would be a stretch to say the two teams already despise each other, it's fair to say neither the Sixers nor the Nets have the highest level of respect for their opponents.
At shootaround Thursday morning, Ben Simmons was asked about Jared Dudley's comment that Simmons is an "average" player in the half court.
"That's coming from Jared Dudley," Simmons said. "Come on."
Ben Simmons' face and reaction when asked about Jared Dudley's comment about him being an average player in the half court:
"That's coming from Jared Dudley." pic.twitter.com/IgDbNJ46vk— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 18, 2019
With Dudley sidelined by right calf tightness in Game 2, Simmons was brilliant, posting his second career playoff triple-double. Simmons had just nine points in Game 1 and shot 1 for 5 when defended by Dudley. The 12-year NBA veteran is listed as probable for Game 3.
Dudley and Caris LeVert also weren't happy with another Sixers' star after Game 2. LeVert told reporters he thought Embiid laughing in the middle of his apology for elbowing Jarrett Allen - an infraction for which Embiid received a Flagrant 1 foul - was "kind of disrespectful." Dudley didn't think Embiid should've been laughing when "someone could've gotten really hurt."
Whether it's because of all the off-court rhetoric or simply because of the higher stakes, the Sixers acknowledged they expect more physicality Thursday. Jimmy Butler, for one, wouldn't mind it.
"I hope so," he said. "I'm all for the physicality. I know a lot of guys on our team are. We're expecting physical. We know we're going to get their best punch. We're coming back, playing at their crib, first time in a long time - they want this one just as bad as we want it."
Simmons thinks the Nets "have to be" more physical. He just doesn't think Brooklyn has the ability to effectively uproot the Sixers from their game.
"Physically, I don't think they can," Simmons said. "Just because we have so many guys who are able to be physical down low and in the paint. But time will tell."
Brett Brown said before Game 1 he was expecting the series to be a "fist fight." We might start approaching that territory soon.
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