PHILADELPHIA – Teams usually present their entire roster before their home opener. But as the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers prepared to tip the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night, only Philadelphia’s starting five were presented to the crowd.
The reason was obvious: It would allow the Sixers to avoid either ignoring their star point guard, Ben Simmons, or introducing him in absentia to a chorus of boos.
It was yet another example of the space Brooklyn and Philadelphia occupy this season. After finishing with the top two Eastern Conference records last season, eventually losing each in the second round of the playoffs, they have entered this season as NBA news epicenters due to absences from Simmons and Kyrie Irving.
As the night ended in dramatic fashion, with Brooklyn coming back from a 10-point deficit in the final five minutes with a final 16-1 inning to claim a 114-109 victory, the fact that no comeback was t is in sight for Simmons or Irving continues to hang over both teams. Both teams still have a lot of star power and plenty of other questions to answer aside from when or if their playmakers return to the field.
Here’s a look at four questions with two less games and 80 more to play:
Fillets de Brooklyn (1-1):
Should the Nets be worried that there was some stretching as they seemed far away from the team that was supposed to win it all?
The Nets had alarmingly slow starts and were edged out and physically pushed around by the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of the season, a 127-104 loss. In order to win their first game of the season in Philadelphia, the Nets needed a triple-double from Kevin Durant, a return game from LaMarcus Aldridge, a 16-1 closing run and several balls. airfields 3 points from Sixers goaltender Danny Green.
“It’s not going to be nice for a little while here,” coach Steve Nash warned after the win.
Nash preaches patience as he uses the start of the regular season almost like an extended preseason to experiment with big lineups and different rotations, all while Irving sits until he gets down. New York’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate compliant. The Nets’ veteran roster also bolsters its conditioning as Brooklyn tries to stay healthy.
There have been a few early developments that could be important for the Nets. Guard Patty Mills looks like a sixth man candidate making the most of Irving’s absence. He didn’t lack depth, breaking through his first 10 3-point shots. And Aldridge won’t be the Trail Blazers (four-time All-Star with Portland) version of himself, but he’s capable of a 23-point blast like the one he had against center Joel Embiid and the Sixers, and he’s a huge difference maker for the Nets.
How did Kyrie Irving’s absence affect Kevin Durant and James Harden?
When asked how Durant and Harden adjusted to play with 10 new teammates, Nash pointed out the glaring missing piece to Brooklyn’s championship puzzle.
“We’ve lost a big chunk,” Nash said of Irving. “It’s not just the new pieces, it’s the void we’re used to playing with. That’s a lot for us to take on right now. But hopefully in the coming weeks we start cleaning up some of the debris so to speak and figuring out how we can play better together. “
Having two superstars in Durant and Harden to clear their way helps. Friday night was a perfect example of how Durant and Harden will have to adjust game after game without their point guard. Durant opened the game by scoring aggressively. But then he said he felt the need to attack the paint and create for his teammates because of what the Sixers defense was giving him. He finished with his second triple-double as Net.
“Every game is different,” Durant said. “We all know some of these competing teams like the physical game defensively, they’re so versatile defensively. So before the game, I have to be ready to do everything. “
Harden will be tasked with more play creation. Nash said Harden could facilitate more with the starters while being a more aggressive scorer with the second unit. In two games, Harden is averaging 20 points, 8 assists and 7.5 rebounds, and the feeling is that he will only get better as he recovers from his hamstring injury in the last few years. playoffs.
Philadelphia 76ers (1-1):
Will the often-injured Embiid stay healthy this season?
It took a game for the consistent theme around the 76ers in recent seasons – in addition to maximum chaos, anyway – to come to the fore: Will Embiid be able to play?
After Philadelphia’s 20-point victory at New Orleans on Wednesday, Embiid was listed as questionable for Friday’s game due to pain in his right knee. While Embiid ended up playing, he was clearly working during the game and later said he probably shouldn’t have spoken.
“We’ll see,” Embiid said when asked if he should miss any games because of the knee. “I mean, after the last game it was a pretty good shot by the big guy, but we’ll see how he feels tomorrow but I don’t plan to sit still. I want to keep playing as long as there is no big damage on it. “
Embiid, on a per minute basis, was arguably the best player in the NBA last season. If he hadn’t missed 21 games last season with various injuries, he might have won the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
With Simmons’ status up and down indefinitely, Philadelphia needs Embiid on the court more than ever. His health could be the difference between the 76ers having a field advantage in the first round of the playoffs or potentially in danger of making the play-in tournament.
Who will be closest to Philadelphia?
This question has followed the 76ers for years. They briefly responded by swapping for All-Star Guardian Jimmy Butler, and Philadelphia hasn’t been able to find another since trading him two years ago.
The question of a reconciliation certainly surfaced in this game, as the Philadelphia offense sank into quicksand in the aftermath with Embiid hampered. The Sixers missed nine straight shots to end the game, while Harden and Durant made plays to bring Brooklyn back into the game and win.
“We took the lead in playing,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “We finished the game with the ball, and we’re just not that type of team. This is not who we are. We don’t have the playmakers who can do it.
« [The Nets] have the ability to give Durant the ball, he can dance 1 on 1, Harden can do that. We really don’t have that type of team, so we have to put ours through movement and movement, and we have to keep believing in it. “
It’s a bit of an indictment against Tobias Harris, who the 76ers gave $ 180 million two years ago and, in fact, chose to keep Butler. Harris had a good game on Friday, finishing with 23 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. But when Philadelphia needed a bucket on the stretch, neither he nor Embiid could deliver one.
It’s also an issue that the notoriously silent Q4 Simmons won’t fix if he returns either. If Philadelphia is to be a true championship contender, it eventually has to fix it.