One of the leading storylines heading into the Philadelphia 76ers’ Round One matchup with the Brooklyn Nets revolved around Philly’s ability to contain Brooklyn’s wings. Long and athletic, Mikal Bridges, Royce O’Neil, and Co. have the ability to wreak havoc on James Harden and Tyrese Maxey.
Ultimately, Philadelphia walked out of Wells Fargo Arena with a comfortable 121-120 win. But Bridges still got to his spots, finishing with 30 points in the losing effort.
After the game, Joel Embiid explained the team’s game plan (or lack thereof) in slowing Bridges down.
“We let him get comfortable,” Embiid told reporters during his postgame press conference on NBA.com on April 15. “Everything he was getting he was getting downhill. He was getting a bunch of pull-up jumpers. It’s not easy being the star, being the main guy. So, once we saw that, we just doubled him, got the ball out of his hands and it worked out pretty well for us.”
Bridges has been on a tear since joining the Brooklyn Nets at the trade deadline. In 26 regular season matches for Brooklyn, the former Phoenix Suns wing averaged 27.2 points on 47.5% from the field.
Doc Rivers Calls Out Mikal Bridges After 76ers Beat Nets
While Embiid praised his team’s efforts, head coach Doc Rivers offered a blunt assessment of Bridges’ first-half performance.
“Bridges was destroying us,” Rivers said during his postgame availability. “The first half for him, it was like being on the beach… Second half, we double-teamed him a lot more. We got the ball out of his hands, and I thought that was effective.
Though Bridges led his team in scoring, he also posted the team’s second-worst net rating, a minus-14 in his 34 minutes of action. Rivers credited his team’s adjustments in the second half for slowing Bridges’ roll.
“He had the highway in the first half. In the second half, it was a traffic jam, and that’s how he has to play. He’s too good. He’s too long, that’s the other thing…when you’re helping off of Bridges and you get back, he doesn’t even see you. He’s too long. You have to get under him and make him put the ball on the floor and I thought we did better with that,” Rivers finished.
For much of the second half, the Sixers looked like the more clinical and playoff-wisened team.
Doc Rivers Praises Joel Embiid After Sixers Beat Nets
The Sixers knew the Nets’ game plan from the jump: slow down Embiid. The back-to-back scoring champion and presumptive MVP nonetheless put on a clinic against the Nets. The former Kansas Jayhawk finished the day with 26 points and five rebounds.
Embiid was double-teamed for much of the game, something Rivers noted the Sixers prepared for going into the series.
“We worked on it all week,” Rivers said, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “I give Joel credit, because I thought especially early he was patient and we sold that to him. You are going to wind up with whatever amount of points no matter what happens. And that happened.
The Sixers have one more game at home on Monday before heading to Brooklyn as the series continues.