The Nets and 76ers look considerably different than they did a year ago, but one thing hasn’t changed: the Nets can’t find a way to beat Philadelphia.
After the Sixers won all four meetings between the two in the regular season a year ago and then swept the Nets in the first round of the playoffs, Joel Embiid dominated again, this time in a 121-99 Nets loss at Barclays Center on Sunday.
The Nets were again without starters Ben Simmons (back), Cam Thomas (ankle), as well as Dennis Smith Jr. (back).
Philadelphia, meanwhile, is adjusting to life without James Harden just fine after Harden was traded, along with P.J. Tucker, to the Clippers.
Under new head coach Nick Nurse, the Sixers entered Sunday with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, behind only Boston, but had dropped two of their previous three games.
Embiid, the reigning MVP — and the league’s leading scorer this year, entering with a 31.9 points per game average — has combined with emerging star, Tyrese Maxey, to keep Philadelphia dangerous.
“We’re gonna have to allow certain dudes to score tonight — or have the risk of certain guys on that team having more open shots than Joel and Maxey,” Vaughn said before the game. “That’s a part of it. We have to give them different looks.”
They didn’t plan on the Sixers being sizzling-hot from 3-point range, as they hit 9 of 16 in the first half.
The Nets trailed by 10 halfway through the first quarter, dominated early by Embiid.
But the Nets got it back to a one-point game at the end of the quarter.
They managed to take the lead for the first time on a Mikal Bridges bucket with 7:37 to go in the half and went up by four points later in the quarter.
Just as they were victimized by a 14-0 run to close out the second quarter in Miami on Thursday, the Nets faltered late in the first half again.
This time, they allowed a 15-0 run by Philadelphia at one point in the second quarter to fall behind, 56-44 and the Sixers closed the half on a 20-5 burst.
Embiid finished the half with a game-high 22 points, as well as eight rebounds and five assists.
He finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, while Maxey added 25 points.
Bridges had 16 points on 7 of 11 shooting and Lonnie Walker IV was strong again off the bench, finishing the half with 11 points — including 3 of 7 from 3-point range.
But Bridges didn’t take another shot until the final minute of the third quarter, with the game pretty much already decided, as Philadelphia used a 16-2 run to pull away.
Walker was the lone bright spot for the Nets, as he led the team with 26 points.
It was the second straight game he’s set a career-high in points and Walker has scored at least 20 points off the bench four times this season, tied with Dallas’ Tim Hardaway Jr. for tops in the NBA.