NBA: Sixers advance after sweeping Nets
NEW YORK – The Philadelphia 76ers shrugged off the absence of Joel Embiid to complete a 4-0 sweep of the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA playoffs on Saturday.
The Sixers advanced to an Eastern Conference semi-final showdown against either Boston or Atlanta with a dominant second-half display to seal a 96-88 victory in Brooklyn.
The Sixers trailed by 11 points early in the third quarter but transformed the contest with an 18-4 run to take the lead before closing out victory with a fourth-quarter rally.
The Sixers’ win was all the more impressive given the absence of star center Embiid, who suffered a right knee sprain in Thursday’s 102-97 victory in game three.
Embiid led the NBA with 33.1 points a game and is a finalist for the NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.
With Embiid out, Paul Reed stepped in to fill the void and finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Tobias Harris led the scoring for Philadelphia with 25 points and 12 rebounds, while De’Anthony Melton came off the bench to produce 15 points and lead the fourth-quarter rally.
Harris said the Sixers had been determined to use Embiid’s absence as a motivator.
“He’s the MVP. And when we heard he wasn’t playing, I think it was an opportunity for everybody else to really step up and understand that we’ve got to get a win without the big fella,” Harris told the TNT television network after the win.
“For us to come out here and get this victory, it feels great for the whole group.
“The whole group came together today. It’s a great win for us and a great way to sweep the series.”
Asked what his message to the injured Embiid would be, Harris replied: “Hurry up and get your ass back out here.”
The 4-0 series victory was Philadelphia’s first playoff sweep since 1991.
Spencer Dinwiddie led Brooklyn’s scoring with 20 points while Nic Claxton had 19 points with 12 rebounds.