D’Angelo Russell, Nets Beat 76ers in Game 1 Despite Jimmy Butler’s 36 Points

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D’Angelo Russell, Nets Beat 76ers in Game 1 Despite Jimmy Butler’s 36 Points
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 13: D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Brooklyn Nets handles the ball against Jimmy Butler #23 of the Philadelphia 76ers during Game One of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on April 13, 2019 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

The sixth-seeded Brooklyn Nets drew first blood in their first-round matchup against the third-seeded Philadelphia 76ers with a 111-102 victory in Game 1 at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday.

Nets guard D’Angelo Russell led the way for the Nets, posting 26 points and four assists in his playoff debut. Caris LeVert added 23 off the bench.

Jimmy Butler went off for 36 points in a losing effort for the Sixers. Joel Embiid had 22 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks in 24 minutes after being a game-time decision with a knee injury.

             

Joel Embiid’s Knee Injury Has Sixers’ Promising Season in Jeopardy

Joel Embiid’s status for Game 1 was up in the air because of left knee soreness, but come tipoff time, he was on the court.

And it was clear early on the Nets were having a hard time containing him.

While scoring eight of his team’s first 10 points, Embiid drew a pair of fouls on Brooklyn center Jarrett Allen in the opening 53 seconds. He single-handedly outscored the Nets 8-7 through the first four-and-a-half minutes while drawing three fouls.

And that’s for someone who was originally listed as “doubtful.”

Even though Embiid had little trouble getting to the line early on, he was not his typical dominant self on this day. The two-time All-Star missed eight of his first nine shots in the first half while going 0-of-5 from three-point range.

The 7-footer logged just 11 minutes in the first half, including just four in the second quarter. He made his way into the locker room with three minutes and change remaining before halftime, a move that had been planned to help keep his knee loose, according to the broadcast.

He finished the game 5-of-15 from the floor.

Embiid’s struggles not only affected his numbers, but they also exposed Philadelphia’s lack of balance on this day. It took Butler going off for 23 points in the first half to keep the halftime deficit under double digits.

When Embiid is healthy, there are few big men in the league who are better—just look at his numbers from Game 1. But per usual with the 25-year-old center, injuries remain an issue. Although he made a career-high 64 appearances during the regular season, he appeared in just 10 games after the All-Star break.

The Sixers may be able to make some noise with Butler leading the way and the likes of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick and Tobias Harris contributing. But without a healthy and effective Embiid, their championship chances take a serious hit.

       

Nets’ Three-Point Shooting Key to Pulling Off Upset

Entering the series, it seemed as though Russell was going to have to be on top of his game for Brooklyn to pull off the upset.

Well, the first half of Game 1 proved otherwise.

Russell had a hard time finding his shot early on, going just 2-of-11 from the field. And yet, the Nets were still able to be in control for the majority of the opening 24 minutes.

How? They caught fire from beyond the arc.

Joe Harris, who led the NBA at 47.4 percent from three-point range this season, knocked down three triples in the opening quarter to help his team keep pace with the Sixers early on.

Brooklyn then used a 20-1 run midway through the first half to open up a 16-point lead.

Russell had just two points by the time the dominant run came to an end.

It’s worth noting that the All-Star point guard entered the game shooting 46.3 percent from the floor and 48.8 percent from the perimeter this month. On this day, though, his teammates had his back.

The Nets made seven of their first 11 three-point attempts in this game and knocked down eight in the first half overall. If not for Butler putting the Sixers on his back, this contest would have been over early.

They wound up hitting 11 for the game. Four different players made at least two, with LeVert going 3-of-3.

As a team, Brooklyn was in the middle of the pack from distance this season, tied for 14th at 35.3 percent. It did, however, rank fifth with 12.8 triples per game. The Nets averaged 11 per game against the Sixers during the regular season, helping them earn a split in the season series.

That type of prowess could loom large all series, especially if Russell gets back into his recent rhythm.

                     

What’s Next 

The best-of-seven series will remain in the City of Brotherly Love for one more game, as Philadelphia will host Brooklyn on Monday night.

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