NBA: Nets next face Joel Embiid, red-hot 76ers

Field Level Media/Reuters

Posted at Jan 07 2021 06:22 PM

The Brooklyn Nets changed starting centers and successfully contained Rudy Gobert in their most dominating showing of the season.

Next up is an encounter with Joel Embiid, whose Philadelphia 76ers visit the Nets on Thursday night for a nationally televised contest.

Brooklyn will play its second straight game without Kevin Durant, who is out for at least a week due to COVID-19 safety protocols.

On Tuesday, the Nets rolled to a 130-96 win over the Utah Jazz with four new starters alongside Kyrie Irving, who made his first nine shots and scored 29 points.

One of Brooklyn's new starters was Jarrett Allen, who collected season highs of 19 points and 18 rebounds while blocking Gobert twice and holding him to 10 points. Allen, who began the season coming off the bench to spell DeAndre Jordan, has not fared well against Embiid, who has torched the Nets for 28.6 points and 12.9 rebounds in 10 regular-season games.

Embiid also dominated Allen and the Nets in the first round of last season's playoffs, when the 76ers bounced back from a loss in the first game to win four straight. In that series, Embiid averaged 24.8 points, 13.5 rebounds and shot 50.7 percent.

Embiid faced the Nets only once last season but it was a dominating performance on Feb. 20 in Philadelphia when he torched Brooklyn for 39 points and 16 rebounds. The Nets played Allen for 13 minutes and Jordan for 37 minutes.

"It's a unique matchup," Nets coach Steve Nash said after practice Tuesday. "(Embiid) is one of the biggest and most talented players in the league. There are not many Embiid-stoppers on the planet. So, I just want to see us work together. I want to see (Allen) fight and scrap and claw and make it difficult for him."

The Nets are also tasked with stopping the league's hottest team. Philadelphia has won six straight since a 24-point loss in Cleveland on Dec. 27, a game Embiid missed due to back tightness.

Embiid is averaging 25.3 points so far and shooting 52.8 percent (56 of 106) after averaging 23 points on 47.7 percent shooting in 51 games last season.

In Wednesday's 141-136 win over the Washington Wizards, Embiid scored a season-high 38 points. It came when the Sixers, who had been surrendering a league-low 41.5 percent shooting, allowed Bradley Beal to get 60.

Embiid's quick start has given Philadelphia its best eight-game start since 2000-01, when it won its first 10 games. The schedule is about to pick up, however. Following Thursday's visit to Brooklyn, the Sixers host Denver on Saturday, visit Atlanta on Monday and host the Miami Heat twice next week.

"I'm excited," Embiid said. "I want to see how we react against top teams. We definitely got to do a better job than we did tonight."

Philadelphia negated its worst defensive showing of the season by shooting 61.7 percent, hitting 18 3-pointers and scoring 82 points by halftime.

"We were fortunate to win the game," Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. "We're fortunate to win the game, but we're not going to win them all pretty. We'll take a win, for sure."

Besides Embiid, the Sixers are getting strong contributions from Seth Curry and Ben Simmons. Curry scored a season-high 28 points Wednesday and is averaging a career-high 17 points per game, while Simmons had a season-high 12 assists Wednesday and is averaging 7.6 assists so far.

--Field Level Media