It certainly wasn't easy, but the Philadelphia 76ers pulled out a tough road victory over the Nets in Brooklyn in the Monday matinee between the two teams. The Nets were in control for much of the game, but some lockdown defense late in the contest helped to propel the Sixers to a 117-111 win. The victory was the second for them over the Nets in the past week, as they also bested Brooklyn 117-106 in Philadelphia last Wednesday, and it gave them a 2-1 lead in the season series. The two teams will play one more time on the season in late February.
Both teams were shorthanded for the game on Monday, as the Nets were without Kyrie Irving (hamstring) and DeAndre Jordan (finger), while the Sixers continue to be without All-Star center Joel Embiid as he recovers following a surgery that he had to repair a torn ligament in his left hand earlier this month.
With Embiid out, the Sixers other All-Star, Ben Simmons, really stepped up. Simmons led the way for the Sixers as he tied a career-high with 34 points and he also added 12 rebounds, 12 assists, and 5 steals to secure his fourth triple-double of the season. He also became the first player in NBA history to post such a stat line in the process. Simmons' high-level play on both ends of the floor was a big reason that the Sixers were able to walk away with a win. He had plenty of help too though, as Al Horford contributed 19 points and six rebounds for Philadelphia, and Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris each added 15 points. The win was the fourth straight for the Sixers.
Spencer Dinwiddie led the way for the Nets with 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Caris LeVert added 16 points, six rebounds, and six assists, and Nicolas Claxton recorded a career-high 15 points.
Here are some takeaways from the Sixers Martin Luther King Jr. Day win over the Nets.
Philadelphia's defense was too much for Brooklyn
Heading into the fourth quarter of the game, the Nets held a one-point lead over the Sixers, but they ultimately ended up losing the contest by six points. The difference in that final period was Philadelphia's defense; the Sixers stepped it up on that end, and the Nets didn't have an answer. Philadelphia's defense – led by Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle – forced double-digit fourth quarter turnovers that resulted directly in multiple fast break opportunities for the Sixers. In all, the Nets turned the ball over 22 times, which allowed the Sixers to amass 23 fast break points. Here's a glimpse of how swarming Philadelphia's defense was in that final quarter:
"They swarmed us," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said of the Sixers late-game defense. "They became much more aggressive and we couldn't handle it."
Ben Simmons made some NBA history
Simmons had a historic performance on Monday afternoon. Not only did he tie his own career-high with 34 points and record his fourth triple-double of the season, he also became the first player in NBA history to record a stat line of at least 34 points, 12 assists, 12 rebounds, and 5 steals, per Sixers Stats. He also became the first player in league history to have a 30-point triple-double with five steals and an 80% shooting percentage in the same game.
The Sixers need Simmons to step up in Embiid's absence, and he did exactly that against the Nets on Monday.
The Nets are trending in the wrong direction
The Nets have hovered around .500 for a large chunk of the season to this point, but they had hoped that the return of Kyrie Irving after a 26 game absence from a shoulder injury would help the team begin to get some momentum. Instead, the opposite has occurred. Irving didn't play on Monday, but since he has returned to the active lineup, the Nets have gone just 1-4, with their only win coming against the lowly Hawks. The loss to the Sixers on Monday was the fourth straight for the Nets, who have now gone just 2-8 over their last 10 games. They now sit six games below .500 on the season, and have a tenuous grasp on the final playoff spot in the East.