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PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 15: Tobias Harris #12 of the Philadelphia 76ers shoots the ball against Mikal Bridges #1 of the Brooklyn Nets in the first quarter during Game One of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center on April 15, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Nets 121-101.

The result of the Sixers- Nets series is not something that has been in question. Most Sixers fans were pretty confident going in that Sixers would win the series. The only hope was that they would get through healthy, and win it in 4 or 5 games. So while the Sixers crushing the Nets in Game 1 was not surprising, it was still encouraging to see them handle them so easily.

But beyond the results, there are important positive takeaways from the game. Things that show promise that this team could hand with the Celtics in the next round. Because that is obviously what matters most. 4 second-round losses in a row have made Sixers fans obsessed with the idea of getting to the Conference Finals. A feat the Sixers haven’t accomplished since 2001 with Allen Iverson. The problem is that the Celtics have given the Sixers issues all season long. They went 1-3 vs them in the regular season. The only win came with the Celtics missing key players.

But at least in game 1, fans saw everyone play the way they will need to if they are going top beat the Celtics. James Harden balled out, the real Tobias Harris showed up,  and even the bench gave them, a good game. If the Sixers are going to get games like that from everyone, they have every chance to beat the Celtics too. The 121-101 result does not matter as much as how everyone looked getting there. What we saw was a team that could maybe be the one to break the chain of 2nd round losses.

Here are 7 encouraging signs from the Sixers Game 1 Win over the Nets:

  • James Harden Looking Healthy and Dangerous

    That was not James Harden in the playoffs last year vs the Heat. I am not sure who it was. But we have seen James Harden before. Harden makes shots and gets to the rim when he wants to. That guy last season couldn’t shoot, and couldn’t drive. Luckily, James Harden showed up in game 1 vs the Nets. Harden hit 7 of his 13 3pt attempts. That was to go with 13 assists. He didn’t have the most success getting to the rim, going just 1-8 on non-3pt shots. But he didn’t need to be. He did more than enough from deep. And he got everyone else open buckets both at the time and outside the arc.

    They need Harden healthy and effective to hang with legit teams. Not having that killed them against the Heat last year. But Harden is looking good as of now. If Harden is hitting his 3s and finding the open guy every other play as he did in Game 1, the Sixers will be hard to beat.

  • Georges Niang is Hitting his 3s

    Georges Niang has been in a word, volatile. When he is going, and the 3s are falling, he is a major asset to the team. But if he can’t hit his shots, he is better left on the bench. The playoffs last season fell in the middle of one of his cold streaks. But while he did nothing too flashy in game 1, he did go 2-4 from 3. And on average, that is something the Sixers will take from him. Come off the bench, and fill it up from deep a little bit.

    We, unfortunately, won’t be able Kate Scott’s call of “Bang Bang Georges Niang” after the first round. But hopefully Niang will still keep hitting 3’s as they advance further in the playoffs, because they need him to stay hot.

  • Tobias Harris Looking Like a Real Number 3

    Tobias Harris gets a lot of hate in Philly. Mostly because he is being paid like a Super Star, and is not one. But what Harris has been for a while is a solid player. An overpaid player sure, but solid. That has shown in the defense he has given the Sixers, especially against Jayson Tatum.

    The offense has been less consistent though. The last time Harris and the Sixers played the Celtics, he gave them next to nothing on that end. He gave them just 5 points on 8 shots in that game. While his defense is incredibly valuable, they will need him to contribute on both ends if they are going to beat the Celtics. Luckily, he did just that in game 1 vs the Nets. Harris gave them 21 points, on 14 shots including 3-3 from deep.

    Harris is paid like a Super Star, but they do not need him to play like one. If Harris gives them games like that, it will be more than enough from their number 4 guy.

  • Paul Reed Looking Like a Viable Backup

    One of the big issues in the past second-round series was the lack of a reliable backup for Joel Embiid. They have tried so many different guys. Boban, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Greg Monroe, just to name a few. All of them played terribly. The Sixers have been losing the non-Embiid minutes every single year in the playoffs. Paul Reed gave them a little bit last year, but overall his inexperience showed up a bit too much. But after a full year of playing, it is looking like he could be ready to give the Sixers something.

    No one is saying he is a star. But can he play 10 minutes a game and not be a disaster? it is a low bar to clear, and so far he is doing so. Paul Reed came in for Embiid and looked pretty good. He even got himself on a highlight reel with a between-the-legs move that is probably better to not try repeating in future games. The important thing is though that they won those minutes. Sure it was against the Nets. But it was an encouraging sign.


  • Embiid Handling Aggressive Double Teams

    Embiid was not a superstar on Saturday. I mean he played really well, and still led them in points. But it was not the typical game where Embiid takeover and dominates. The reason for that is that Embiid got double-teamed literally every time he touched the ball. A sight we are all too familiar with in the playoffs. But what is important, is how he and his teammates handled those double-teams.

    Embiid didn’t force shots or turn it over. He just passed out of it. While that did not result in assists for him. It did result in assists for everyone else. Embiid got a lot of what we call hockey assists. He passes it to someone, who was then able to find the open person. Those aggressive double-teams are a big part of the reason the Sixers got so many open 3s. When they do that, someone else has to be open. And as a team the Sixers did a great job finding that open shooter.


  • Playoff PJ Tucker is Here

    The Sixers brought PJ Tucker in for a reason. While many fans cried about his low-scoring numbers all season long, the people who knew what Tucker is here for were not worrying. Because what PJ Tucker brings, does not always show up in the box score.

    In this case, it kind of did though. PJ Tucker brought down 7 rebounds, 5 of which were on the offensive end. He also hit two 3s. Tucker is not a star, but he knows his role and plays it well. He is here to bring toughness to the team. Something they lacked last season. And game 1 showed us that he is very ready to fill that role. Tucker won’t get you a ton of points. But his play will get his team rates points. The Sixers getting 14 offensive rebounds, to the Nets 3, is a sign of that.


  • Everyone is Healthy

    The most important takeaway is that everyone is healthy. The Bucks saw Giannis Antetokpoumpo hurt his back. Tyler Herro broke his hand. Ja Morant hurt his hand. Game 1 of the first round was very costly for a lot of teams. But so far so good for the Sixers. Injuries have been the bane of the Sixers’ existence in the playoffs. Especially when it comes to Joel Embiid.

    Last year he played with a torn ligament in his thumb, plus a broken orbital bone. The year before he had injuries to both knees. And he was sick for most of the Raptors series in 2019. But he looks healthy for now. And as already mentioned, so in James Harden. Going into game 2 the Sixers have no lingering injuries hampering guys, and no one missing any time. That could change at any moment. but they are healthy right now, and most teams can’t say that.

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