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April 16, 2019

What they're saying: Joel Embiid should have been ejected from Game 2?

Sixers NBA

After a disheartening loss in Game 1 against the Brooklyn Nets, fans and media alike were already starting to write off the Sixers' playoff hopes. All it took was a dominant third quarter in Game 2 for that tune to change, and while the Sixers head to Brooklyn with some work to do, their belief in the spine of their gameplan has them feeling pretty good.

Would they feel the same way if Joel Embiid had been ejected in the first half of Game 2? That's a completely different story. Although Embiid's flagrant foul has gone rather undiscussed in local circles, there are some who have popped up in recent days who believe the big man's elbow should have earned him an ejection.

Here's that play again, in case you missed it on Monday.

With that in mind, let's get started and see what everyone is saying about the Sixers.

Should Embiid have been ejected in Game 2?

Raja Bell | CBS Sports

Not only does Bell believe Embiid should have been kicked from the game for getting Jarrett Allen with an elbow to the face, he believes a suspension should have been on the table for Embiid.

I don't believe it to be unintentional. I think he should have been ejected from the game. We saw them eject the kid from Detroit, Andre Drummond, for a shove on Giannis Antetokounmpo. You set a precedent like that with what you're going to kick someone out of a game for, then he should have definitely been kicked out of the game last night.

I feel like if the Sixers were up 1-0 in that series, he would've been kicked him out of the game last night. They were not going to kick him out of that game, and I think they made a mistake, and if they were being honest and all things were considered equal, if they went back and looked at that film, they would suspend him for the next game and upgrade it to a flagrant two, because he tried to break that man's face. [CBS]

I can't get there on this play, though I do think it's worth considering how this play would have been received in Philadelphia if Allen was the one dealing an elbow to the face of Embiid. Was Embiid trying to clear out space with his elbow? Absolutely. Do I believe he was trying to throw an elbow into Allen's grill? Absolutely not.

But this opinion is out there, for whatever it's worth. Embiid's foul was not upgraded to a flagrant two following the game.

Sixers flash championship ceiling against the Nets

Jeremy Woo | Sports Illustrated

The media are about as hot and cold on Philadelphia as the team itself seems to be on the court. After Game 1, Sports Illustrated took some poignant shots at the Sixers. Now, Woo is detailing how high the ceiling is after the 51-point quarter they unleashed that powered them to a victory.

With the series knotted 1–1 and headed to Brooklyn, any fear of an impending meltdown can now be boiled down to a temporarily nervous moment. When it’s all working for the Sixers, this is what it looks like—dare we say it, a championship-level ceiling. There was basically nothing the Nets could do about it, no way for them to quell the flood. How many more times Philly can tap into this is one question, but the matter of exactly how well it can all work at once has been rightfully answered. [SI]

I'd like to see them get out of the first round and put up a fight against the Raptors in round two before I start worrying about championship ceilings, but it was an impressive outing for the Sixers all the same.

Sixers improve without major tactical adjustments

Derek Bodner | The Athletic

As Bodner explains, it wasn't a big change in scheme that allowed Philly to look much better against Brooklyn on Monday night.

For example, the play below doesn’t change anything schematically or even really improve the team’s spacing over where it was in Game 1 — Joel Embiid’s defender is still in the charge circle and Ben Simmons’ defender is in the paint. But rather than disengaging and roaming off the ball, both Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs are too preoccupied defending their own man to worry about what Redick is doing off the ball. Simple things like Embiid fighting for post position and Simmons eating up space with the ball in his hands make it easier for the rest of the team to free themselves. []

There was somebody who told you this before Game 2, so you should have been prepared for it ahead of time.

James Ennis' return provides rotation boost

Noah Levick | NBC Sports

Ennis returning to the rotation allowed the Sixers to go with a backup unit led by Jimmy Butler at point, and it made all the difference in the world.

The winner of the much-discussed “tournament” for backup wing minutes, Ennis said he “has no clue” whether he’ll still be on a minutes restriction for Game 3, noting that decision would be determined by the training staff. For now, he said he’s aiming to make the most of the time he gets. 

He enjoyed his 12 minutes on the floor and a stress-free fourth quarter. 

 “We just shared the game,” Ennis said. “Everybody had a good time out there, everybody was cheering each other on, the bench was into it. It was a good overall team win.” [NBCSports]

Getting more than 12 minutes from Ennis would be a big help, but even if the Sixers just get small contributions from their bench wing, he has proven capable of improving the team in brief cameos.

The best of Ben Simmons, the worst of Ben Simmons

Kevin O'Connor | The Ringer

When he's not busy speculating on which hand Simmons should be shooting with, O'Connor puts in serious time thinking about team-building and fit around the league. No player is as confounding there as Simmons, whose erratic playoff play is something the Sixers need to study hard in the months and years to come.

Think about that: Simmons is already this good without the safety blanket of a reliable outside shot. The question—one that will be asked over and over again throughout these playoffs—is: How good can his team be if that’s who he is? We know he can physically dominate most of the defenders who try to mark him. We know he can make blind, psychic passes that no one else can see. But what happens when the game is close, when time is tight? Is he a playmaker or a passenger? Can he still be an offensive threat without a complete offensive game? The answers are going to come fast, and what Philly does with that information will be fascinating. [TheRinger]

The risk of moving on from Simmons is extraordinarily high, given what we have seen him accomplish so far in his career. The team that moves on from him only to see him improve his shot as his career unfolds would regret it for a long, long time and that's why you're unlikely to see the Sixers move on from Simmons in the short term.

But there is certainly some risk in betting that the shot will eventually come, because we all how low the lows can be when Simmons is schemed out of a game. This conversation isn't going away anytime soon.

Sixers scheme Joe Harris out of Game 2

Zach Braziller | New York Post

D'Angelo Russell's struggles were the most important part of Philadelphia's defensive turnaround on Monday, but eliminating Brooklyn's sharpshooter went a long way toward stopping the Nets. Philadelphia's ability to protect the three-point line shone through in Game 2.

“It’s tough, they were blocking a lot of the screening situations,” said Harris, who misfired on both his 3-point attempts after scoring 13 points in Game 1. “They were forcing me to the rim, taking away any sort of 3-point threats. But a lot of it is on me, just being able to move a little more aggressively, hunt different shots maybe in transition. You can’t just be reliant on getting into the half-court and expecting screens to get open. It’s just not easy in the playoffs, and everybody kind of game plans for individual guys.” “You got to be a little bit more determined moving without the ball.” [NY Post]

We'll discuss some changes the Nets might make in tomorrow's preview of where things stand heading to Brooklyn, but keeping Harris under wraps is critical in this series.

The Sixers look like a Goliath again

Dan Devine | The Ringer

Simmons' hot and cold play is in many ways a reflection of the team's chaotic rises and dips. Devine lays that out nicely here, while noting that Brooklyn has some reinforcements coming that could change the calculus.

The return of Dudley, whose shooting touch makes him a more credible floor spacer than Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in small-ball lineups, would also help. If the version of the Sixers that showed up in the third quarter on Monday sticks around, though, it might not matter. It took a little while, but we’ve now seen the vision that general manager Elton Brand had as he dealt his way to a top-heavy hand. It can be a little nerve-wracking at times, but it can be pretty breathtaking, too. [TheRinger]

Who would have thought James Ennis and Jared Dudley would be so integral to a series featuring so many stars? Depth matters, which is an observation people should remember as the Sixers approach a critical offseason.

Embiid and Simmons are behind the wheel

Michael Lee | The Athletic

Lee means this literally in the case of Embiid. The big man took control of a golf cart after the win in Game 2, which may not be the best idea...

Few in that part of the Wells Fargo Arena — including a 76ers public relations staffer whom Embiid told to get in the passenger’s seat — realized the slight danger in that moment. Because, while he has been in Philadelphia for five years and the United States since he was 16, Embiid still doesn’t have his driver’s license. 

 “No,” Embiid told The Athletic as the 25-year-old cracked a huge smile afterward, “but I know how to drive.” [TheAthletic]

But Lee also means this figuratively, and it's the correct way of looking at things. As important as Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris are to the team's immediate future, it is Embiid and Simmons who will determine the fate of the franchise. The Sixers will be betting on a big man with a checkered health history and an oversized point guard with an unprecedented shooting problem.

Quite a team this is to cover, I'll tell you that much.

Playoff Frosty time

God bless Kevin Harlan, who showed the proper reverence for a free Frosty in the middle of a playoff game.

For my money, nobody does a better job of reacting to in-game oddities than Harlan, whose promo read for the Angry Whopper at Burger King was just as good as this Frosty call.

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