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Whatever the message was at halftime, it definitely worked.
The Sixers used a record-setting 51-point third quarter to crush the Nets, 145-123, Monday night in Game 2 at the Wells Fargo Center.
Thanks to some more hot shooting by Brooklyn, the Sixers held just a one-point advantage at the break. Then Joel Embiid, a game-time decision heading in, started to look like himself, and Ben Simmons continued a brilliant bounce-back performance.
The 51 points were the most ever scored in the third quarter and tied for the most in any quarter of a playoff game in NBA history. The 145 points set a playoff franchise record.
The series now heads up to Brooklyn for Game 3 Thursday tied, 1-1.
Here are observations from the win:
• Simmons said at practice on Sunday that he was planning to be much more aggressive in Game 2. He was a man of his word from the opening tip … literally.
After Embiid won the tip, Simmons took the ball directly to the rim. He missed, but it was definitely a tone-setting type of play by Simmons. It made everything come a little easier for the Sixers as Simmons continued to go to the rim, looking for his own shot.
Of course Simmons took exception to the fans booing in Game 1, but everyone kissed and made up in the first quarter. After an excellent take and finish on Jarrett Allen, Simmons raised his arms up, urging the crowd to get louder.
OH YEAH, THATS WHAT WE LIKE TO SEE (AND HEAR).
Ben Simmons giving the crowd what they want with a big drive and hype up the crowd's cheers. He's got seven points and three boards already. pic.twitter.com/ylFQvrhzeG — NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 16, 2019
He recorded his second career playoff triple-double with 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
Also, for as poor as Simmons was offensively in Game 1, he did an outstanding job on D'Angelo Russell, holding him to 10 of 25 from the field. Game 2 wasn't much kinder to Russell, who finished just 6 of 16. Simmons has flashed elite defensive ability at times this season and has been stellar through two games in the playoffs.
• Embiid was a little slow to get going. He didn't attempt a field goal in his first seven minutes of action.
Then this happened …
It's funny, Embiid seemed quiet in his 12 first-half minutes, but had 10 points and five boards. Even with an achy knee, he can shows signs of sheer brilliance. He moved around much better Monday night than he did Saturday afternoon.
He started the second half with a personal 7-0 run and had 13 points in the third. Brett Brown had to play the All-Star center only 20 minutes as he finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
• While Jimmy Butler was a beast and Embiid was still rounding into form in Game 1, there was legitimate concern over the play of Simmons, JJ Redick and Tobias Harris. All three surpassed their point totals from Saturday less than two minutes into the third quarter.
Redick has been in these situations before. While his playoff play has been up and down in his career, you know he's a veteran and he ended the regular season on an absolute tear. He finished with 17 points on 7 of 12 from the field and 2 of 5 from three. He adjusted to the Nets overplaying him at the three-point line by taking - and making - more long twos.
It was good to see Harris finally get rolling. After Harris missed his first five shots, Brooklyn did him a huge favor in the third quarter. Harris was fouled taking a three and then Russell committed a clear-path foul on him. Harris made five straight free throws and it must have made the basket grow from a pinhole to an ocean. He had 12 of his 19 points in the third and finished 2 of 4 from three.
• If you were looking for Brown's adjustments, you got ‘em.
With James Ennis back in the lineup, Brown didn't bring T.J. McConnell or Jonathon Simmons off the bench until garbage time. The move paid dividends immediately. Ennis played better defense on Caris LeVert on his first defensive possession than any Sixer did in Game 1. I wasn't sure the impact Ennis would have in this series, but he gave the Sixers a real boost in 12 minutes Monday.
And speaking of the bench, how good has Boban Marjanovic been during the first two games of the series? Maranjovic had 14 points in 11 first-half minutes and ended up with 16 points and eight boards. He's also held up OK on defense. Getting solid backup center minutes from him will be huge for the Sixers.
Mike Scott also had a bounce-back performance, hitting 3 of 5 for 15 points.
Brown cut his rotation down to eight guys, with Jonah Bolden getting two spot minutes in the first half. In Game 2, it worked out quite well.
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