BROOKLYN, NY — The Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets paired up to play one of the most insane playoff games — or any type of game — in the history of basketball. Game 3 was a slugfest that featured numerous ejections and resulted in a Philly win thanks to Joel Embiid doing just enough to put the Sixers ahead.
This first-round series between the Sixers and Nets has seen Embiid score 30 points zero times. Yet Philadelphia has won each game so far. Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris and P.J. Tucker have stepped up their style of play as the Nets double-team Embiid relentlessly. Tucker told Embiid that gutting out wins through physicality would be a part of it for the Sixers — and he’s been proven totally right so far.
“I love that. Those are my favorite kind of games because the refs start letting a little more go, it gets chippy,” Tucker said. “I told Joel before we started the playoffs [that] these type of games are the ones you remember if you get to where you want to be. Those games when you shoot 40 percent, and 60 from free throw, and nobody can hit a three, and you win. Those are the ones, that’s when you know you’re growing as a team. You do whatever it takes that night to get that win. And these are the kind of games that build that foundation to be able to win. Because then when you’re rolling, it’s hard to beat you.”
This series could not be more of a perfect example of what Tucker is talking about. Maybe they won’t be the games that Embiid is remembered for but his ability to find paths to victory amid a flurry of aggression and physicality shows immense growth on his part. Many other Sixers deserve praise for picking up the slack in the scoring department but Embiid has certainly led the way, even if he’s not pouring on the points he usually does.
The Sixers have benefited immensely from Tucker’s hustle in the series so far. The burly forward realizes that the increased attention on Embiid leaves room for him to crash the glass. He has come away with 10 offensive rebounds in the first three games and been one of the team’s most important vocal leaders, as Tyrese Maxey said after the game.
Doc Rivers agrees, saying that Tucker won the game for them and that he was “the toughest guy on the floor.” The abilities of the Sixers’ veteran were often in question during the regular season. But his leadership and intensity in the playoffs cannot be denied in the slightest.
“We showed early with offensive rebounds, kick-out threes, start to get a couple going, getting Tyrese downhill,” Tucker said. “Jo’s not playing? Alright, cool, come on, we know what we gotta do. It’s not rocket science.“
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