Sixers crisply handle their business in Brooklyn

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 120, Brooklyn 97 – Box Score

With many of the eyes in the basketball world focused on college basketball’s Selection Sunday, it would be easy to forget the crucial playoff races taking place in the NBA’s final weeks. Fortunately for Philadelphia fans, there were no signs of distraction from the Sixers, who took care of business in Brooklyn from the very beginning of the Sunday night’s game.

After the Nets converted on their opening possession, the Sixers scored the game’s next 10 points and never looked back. Philadelphia shot a blistering 67% from the field prior to halftime, recording yet another 70-point first half. Following years of watching the Sixers slog their way along with a league-worst offense, these recent scoring outbursts have looked like watching an entirely different sport. Although the defense was slow to get going, the Sixers finally got their act together in the final period. holding Brooklyn to 14 points in the fourth quarter to enable Brett Brown to empty the entire bench for the game’s last handful of minutes.

For the Sixers, it was the sort of balanced team effort coaches dream about when they first drape thew whistle around their necks. All five starters finished in double figures, as did Ersan Ilyasova, Marco Belinelli, and T.J. McConnell off the bench. McConnell was at his utmost peskiest with 6 assists and 4 steals. Robert Covington shook off his 0-10 performance against Miami, going 3-7 from three, and chipping in with 4 assists, a steal, and 2 blocks. Joel Embiid led the way with an efficient 21 points, and Dario Saric tallied 18 points on 8-11 shooting.

Throughout the game, the Sixers did a terrific job moving without the ball and finding their teammates with crisp, occasionally inventive passes. Philadelphia nearly doubled Brooklyn’s assist total (33-17), and most against character, only turned it over 9 times.

The following play was emblematic of the beauty on display all night at the Barclays Center. With Embiid drawing attention out of the post, Covington took advantage of Spencer Dinwiddie turning his back to his own man, and made the proper dive to the basket. A perfect bounce pass from JoJo and the finish from RoCo equaled two points for Philadelphia. Over and over again, the Sixers carved up the Nets defense with that kind of surgical precision.

Sunday marked the beginning of what is a very easy end-of-the-season schedule for Philadelphia, as noted by Vice Sports’ Michael Pina.

Still, the Sixers have to take care of business on the court. After all, they already lost to the Nets in the team’s first meeting. Sunday night in Brooklyn was the ideal scenario, proper execution allowing the superior talent to shine through, enabling some rest for Embiid and the starters in the closing minutes. The win kept the Sixers one game ahead of Miami and just 2 games behind Indiana for third place, with Cleveland and Washington in-between in the crowded Eastern Conference playoff race.

Philadelphia can make up ground on Indiana tomorrow night at home, before a very favorable five-game stretch featuring the Knicks, Nets, Hornets, Grizzlies, and Magic. A win against the Pacers and we could easily be looking at a third-place Sixers team in two weeks.

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