Says Yahoo Sports:
Ben Simmons can’t shoot — and won’t shoot — in case you forgot or stopped watching the 76ers for the past several weeks. A physical marvel when he wants to be, he failed to exert any force on the game, a surprising development when you consider how much Embiid was struggling to find any rhythm early.
Jimmy Butler, a man who seemed all but resigned to playing the good soldier for the past several weeks to suppress confusion, found himself standing alone amid the playoff pressure.
He looked up and his team was down 17 before he nearly dug the 76ers out of it, with physical drives and opportunistic loose balls and a buzzer-beating jumper before the half. The 76ers needed more than his career-playoff-high 36 points, but they needed production from someone else.
“The thing that bothered me the most is the fact I didn’t have a single assist,” Butler said. “I think if I’m getting everybody involved and getting everybody else easy shots, the game goes a different way.”
Was it Joel Embiid’s 1-of-9 start that kept Tobias Harris from getting involved? Or merely the thought that this team has been cobbled together over the past few months with barely a foundation to speak of aside from Embiid and Simmons? It’s hard to believe this franchise made the second round last spring, but when you consider they hovered around .500 before making an improbable run last season, perhaps too much was added too soon.
“We’re comfortable with each other. We all love each other. But I think so,” said Embiid when asked if the “10 games” the group has had together is enough time to develop playoff-level chemistry. “That’s not the reason we lost. We didn’t execute offensively or defensively. We weren’t aggressive, we weren’t physical. We didn’t play our brand of basketball, especially me. I have to bully people around.”
Bullying people is a lot easier when you have two healthy knees. Embiid often labored downcourt and could barely put together consecutive possessions indicative of a man who’s in shape. He hasn’t played in a week.
The 76ers’ ills — their lack of depth, nonexistent shooting and questionable role identification — was on full display in the playoff opener. Things that are masked in 82 games can be exposed in the 83rd.
Not to mention, they couldn’t get on the same page in the postgame, when head coach Brett Brown said reserve center Amir Johnson would be fined heavily for having his cellphone on the bench after being caught by cameras showing Embiid a text message — to which Embiid said Johnson was giving him an update on Johnson’s ill daughter.
And that’s not even considering the fact it seems no one was fit to tell the franchise center that being a defender and rebounder was his greatest value, and to leave the scoring to the three wings who would more than make up for the extra opportunities.
“I tell him all the time, it’s about him being healthy,” Butler said. “Yeah, he can help us, but at the same time he can hurt us if he gets worse. Don’t get me wrong, we definitely want Jo out there. But we want him healthy.”
The Nets shut off the valve to JJ Redick on offense, and targeted him on defense, executing their strategy and leading to a few pointed comments from the 76ers about the Nets’ game plan being on point.