NEW YORK  The Sixers didn’t need their star big man to seal a series sweep over the Nets on Saturday afternoon.

With Joel Embiid sidelined, the Sixers earned a 96-88 Game 4 victory over Brooklyn at Barclays Center to advance to the second round of the playoffs. It’s the Sixers’ first series sweep since 1991 and their first sweep of a seven-game series since 1985.

Tobias Harris led the Sixers with 25 points.

James Harden posted 17 points and 11 assists. Paul Reed had 10 points and a career-high 15 rebounds.

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said pregame that he is not sure when Embiid might return.

From my understanding, they checked his knee out right after the game, Rivers said, because he was complaining about some soreness behind the knee, which is always a scary thing when its behind the knee with players. There was swelling already, which is way too early, and so we did the MRI.

As a coach, I hate those three letters, because it never comes out well. It just feels like whenever they tell a coach, Hey, were doing an MRI, it doesnt turn out well most of the time. And this one did not.

The Sixers will play the winner of the Celtics vs. Hawks series in Round 2 of the playoffs. Boston holds a 2-1 lead.

Here are observations on the Sixers’ Game 4 win in Brooklyn:

Different faces from Game 3 

Reed received the fifth start of his NBA career and his first in the postseason.

The Embiid-less Sixers had a rough opening stint. Harris scored the games first bucket on a driving layup and Reed converted a short righty hook through traffic inside, but the Sixers offense struggled otherwise. Harden missed a layup and a floater. Sixers guards Harden, Tyrese Maxey and DeAnthony Melton combined to begin 0 for 7 from the floor. Harden also threw an ankle-height pass to a wide-open P.J. Tucker in the corner that ended up trickling out of bounds.

Switching remained fundamental for the Nets defense, but Brooklyn had less high-effort scrambling to do with no aggressive double teams on Embiid required. The Sixers only put up four three-pointers in the first quarter and hit none of them.

Expectedly, the Sixers defense was less sturdy than usual in the early going with no Embiid. Spencer Dinwiddie scored eight of Brooklyns first 10 points and the Nets took a 14-4 lead when Nic Claxton slipped free in the half court for a dunk.

Under 11 minutes into the game, the Sixers had already used three centers. Rivers subbed small-ball five Tucker out late in the first quarter and inserted Montrezl Harrell, whod essentially been outside of the Sixers rotation since early February. In his five first-half minutes, Harrell had no points (0 for 2 from the floor) and one rebound. The Sixers played the Nets even with Harrell on the court largely due to an effective stretch of zone defense early in the second quarter.

During that run, Seth Curry came up empty on two jumper attempts. The former Sixer got 21 minutes for Brooklyn after not being part of the Nets Game 3 rotation. Patty Mills also played for the first time in the entire series. Soon after Mills entered, Shake Milton also made his first non-garbage time appearance of this postseason. The Sixers understandably liked the look of that matchup with Miltons size (6-foot-5 with a 7-foot wingspan) and comfort getting to his spots against the 6-foot Mills. Sure enough, Milton went at Mills on his first touch and drew a foul.

However, Milton did not magically fix the Sixers offensive woes, and he also picked up three quick fouls. The Sixers had a mere 40 points at halftime and trailed by eight. That deficit would have been much worse if shooters like Joe Harris and Curry had knocked down an open jumper or two; Brooklyns bench was 0 for 10 from three-point range at intermission.

Harden, Maxey work through shooting struggles 

By the 4:55 mark of the first quarter, Harden had drawn his most free throws in a game this series; he shot 4 for 4 from the line in the opening period.

Hardens finishing in the paint was still an issue, though. He blew past Claxton in the second quarter, but the 33-year-old paid for a brief hesitation and got his layup blocked from behind. Harden only made one basket at the rim all day and shot 4 for 18 from the field. Though there’s been poor luck involved with some narrow misses, but Harden’s timing and instincts for which option’s best haven’t been sharp overall around the hoop.

Early in the third quarter, Maxey took his time on a wide-open three, then left it short. After his stellar finish to Game 3, almost nothing seemed to break Maxeys way. Hes made progress this year in terms of playing through contact and finding savvy methods of drawing fouls, but it would sure be nice if the Sixers if Maxey could reliably draw heaps of free throws when hes having an off night against a high-level opponent.

Maxey and the Sixers didnt assume that bad shooting had to result in a loss, though, and they eventually got a few timely jumpers to do. After a Dorian Finney-Smith three gave the Nets a 53-42 edge, Harden answered with a three of his own. He assisted a Tucker corner three early in the third quarter, too.

Harris scoring was valuable for the Sixers on Saturday. With Embiid out, he showed his skill in the post on several occasions, used his size and strength well, and hit several very tough mid-range jumpers.

Reed comes up huge in second half 

Reed was certainly not flawless, but the Sixers looked excellent defensively with him on the floor most of the day.

The 23-year-old’s capacity to handle all sorts of players shined in the third quarter. He consistently was steady when switched on to guards and wings, forcing contested jumpers. The Nets began to settle for a lot of threes, too. While high three-point volume is an aspect of Brooklyn’s team identity, many of the Nets’ attempts in the second half didn’t come from drives into the paint collapsing the defense, crisp ball movement, or anything close to ideal offensive process.

Reed featured in a game-turning 14-0 Sixers run and capped it with a layup that lifted his team to a 56-53 lead. Reed rebounded tremendously on both ends of the court, too. At one point in the third quarter, he ripped down an A.J. Brown-eque, one-handed defensive board.

In the fourth quarter, Melton had a gigantic impact. He drained all three of his three-pointers in the fourth, including one set up by Reed after an offensive rebound. Melton tipped in his own miss with 3:58 remaining to give the Sixers an 85-76 edge. A Reed lefty lay-in extended the Sixers’ lead to 13 points and a Harris corner three was ultimately the series dagger.

The Sixers have taken pride this year in finding unconventional ways to win. On Saturday, Reed was a massive reason they did.


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Philadelphia 76ers Playoff Bell Ringers 2023

The Philadelphia 76ers entered the 2023 NBA Playoffs as the third seed in a loaded Eastern Conference. 

The Sixers have made the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, but five consecutive disappointing losses (four in the second round) have extended their streak without an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Doc Rivers said it best as a guest on The John Kincade Show.

“We don’t talk about getting out of the second round. To me, that is such low expectations for our team. We talk about winning it, so I guess there’s angst getting out of the second round, but I can tell you we don’t talk about it. The angst more is to try to be a champion, and that’s what we focus on way more than just getting out of the second round.”

Joel Embiid and company hope that the best home-court advantage in the NBA will play in their favor throughout a memorable run this spring.

What gets the home crowd in Philadelphia fired up for a Sixers playoff game? Hearing Matt Cord announce special guests as 76ers bell ringers at half court at the Well Fargo Center.

  • Nick Sirianni- Round 1, Game 1 vs. Brooklyn Nets


    Who better than the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles fresh off a Super Bowl appearance?

    Nick Sirianni fired up the crowd for the playoff opener at the Wells Fargo Center on April 15. He unsurprisingly brought his children out to half court with him, and his brand new Sixers jacket made everyone forget to mention anything about him pandering to the fan base.

    The Sixers rolled the Brooklyn Nets 121-101 to take a 1-0 lead in the opening-round series.

  • Larry Bowa- Game 2, Round 1 vs. Brooklyn Nets

    Larry Bowa helped bring the Philadelphia Phillies their first ever World Series in 1980. Maybe the stroke of good luck will help the Sixers end a 30-year drought without a championship.

    The Sixers recovered from a slow start to take care of the Nets 96-84 to take a 2-0 lead over the Nets.

  • Jason Kelce- Game 3, Round 2 vs. Boston Celtics

    The John Kincade Show called Jason Kelce the most relatable athlete in Philadelphia sports history.

    The five-time NFL All-Pro ignited the fan base for the loudest Eagles chant the city has ever heard in 2018. His energy matched the pregame mood of the building for Game 3 of the Boston Celtics series when Joel Embiid received the NBA MVP Award.

    The Sixers couldn’t take advantage of the rowdy home crowd. The Celtics took a 2-1 series lead with a 114-102 victory.

  • Wanda Sykes- Game 4, Round 2 vs. Boston Celtics

    The Sixers brought back a previous bell ringer with Wanda Sykes before a critical Game 4 against the Celtics. The actor/comedian has become a local favorite in Media, PA when she’s not firing up the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center.

    The Sixers pulled off a nailbiting, 116-115 overtime victory to even the series 2-2.

  • Questlove- Game 6, Round 2 vs. Boston Celtics

    Questlove got his start in the music industry in the city of Philadelphia. He is now the drummer for the Roots, and he set the tone for a potentially monumental night in the City of Brotherly Love when the Sixers had the opportunity to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2001.

    The Sixers, unfortunately, couldn’t capitalize in a disappointing 95-86 loss. 

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