PHILADELPHIA – In a rematch of the playoff series last season, the Sixers reminded the Nets once again how far they have to go to be a postseason contender.
After leading for most of the night, the Nets stumbled again in the last quarter and lost 117-106 to a loud crowd of 20,416 spectators at the Wells Fargo Center.
Spencer Dinwiddie had 26 points, but the Nets allowed a 14-4 run near the start of the final period that turned a six-point cushion into a four-point deficit. It was not one they could overcome, falling to 18-22.
Philadelphia (26-16) played without center Joel Embiid, but Al Horford returned to his natural position and looked solid with 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists, marking the crucial race. Tobias Harris poured a maximum of 34 games.
“We’ve seen what they’ve done to us without Embiid before. We saw it in the playoffs,” Kenny Atkinson said before the game. “I think Al is excellent at 5 and causes a different set of problems for his team.
“Listen, Philly, they are an excellent team, among the top 10, the top 5 in defensive efficiency and that always gives you a chance to be really good now and in the playoffs.” A lot of respect. We have to play very well. We can’t play a good game, we have to play a great game to get this one. “
Over three quarters, the Nets seemed destined to get it. Then the Sixers went around fate.
Kyrie Irving, who played his first consecutive game since losing 26 games with a shoulder injury, had 14 quiet points in 6 of 21 shots, including 1 of 7 in the fourth quarter.
“We have passed through this section with boys entering and leaving and we have kept our head out of the water.” We have plunged too underwater, “said Atkinson.” Now, hopefully, we can raise our heads again and finish this stretch hard at the All-Star Game break. “
The game was knotted at 33, all after a Harris bridge when the Nets managed to separate. Caris LeVert hit a triple, and Irving, who had been almost invisible by failing his first five shots, finally got on the board with a 7:58 tray left in the middle.
James Ennis III responded to recover the Sixers within three, but Joe Harris nailed a triple. He gave the Nets a 41-35 advantage that they clung to for their lives.
Each time the Sixers managed to scratch at one point again and again, seven times, the Nets tried to overcome problems, injuries and numerous manifestations of Sixer.
DeAndre Jordan left the game with 2:45 remaining in the initial half due to a dislocated middle finger. He did not return.
The Nets took a 57-54 lead at halftime thanks to shot 8 of 14 from deep. But they ran into more frontline problems in the second.
Atkinson has publicly declared his distaste for the coach’s challenge, but did not hesitate to use it after Jarrett Allen picked up his fourth foul with 8:43 remaining in the third with Brooklyn clinging to a 68-61 lead.
In the end, the challenge was unsuccessful, and the Nets were in a difficult situation with injured Jordan and Nic Claxton in the G-League allocation. Allen played through the fouls problem until he finally gave way to Wilson Chandler with 3:44 in the third and the Nets held on to a 82-78 lead.
They pushed that to 92-86 just 30 seconds in the last quarter. But they saw that Taurean Prince also seemed to hurt his hand and Philadelphia staggered a 14-4 race to finally take the lead forever.
Horford culminated the streak with a triple that left the Nets in a 100-96 hole with 7:49 to play.
They were fighting uphill the rest of the night. Allen finally threw them, even at 104, all in a free throw with 3:51 remaining. But Horford hit a jumper, and then Irving was blocked by Josh Richardson, giving the Sixers the lead and the ball. Harris 3 to beat the launch clock was the dagger.
He put the Sixers up 109-104, and the exhausted Nets committed a violation of the shot clock on the next trip. 1:51 left, but the game was over.