It took only one game for the 76ers to encounter their first dose of resistance this postseason.
The Sixers were humbled by the Brooklyn Nets and booed at home in Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series. Then, they battled through what, at times, were really physical battles to win the next three games.
In Game 5, the Sixers are expecting another unflinching effort from a Nets squad that isn’t backing down despite its 1-3 deficit.
“They are going to play desperate,” guard JJ Redick said. “We expect them to be at their best. So the mind-set is that we have to be at our best to close them out.”
A win Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center would advance the Sixers to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second consecutive season. They would face the winner of the Toronto Raptors-Orlando Magic series, which the Raptors lead, 3-1. Game 5 of that series also will be Tuesday night, at Scotiabank Arena.
The conference semifinals are scheduled to begin next Monday or Tuesday. However, a semifinal series could start this weekend if both teams advance early.
Sixers center Joel Embiid is listed as probable for Game 5. He missed Game 3 and 14 of the final 24 regular-season games because of tendinitis in his left knee. Embiid said Monday that his knee pain remains the same. The Cameroonian added that he just has to manage it with treatment “all day, all night” and ice it and work in the weight room.
He’s been a game-time decision in the first four playoff games. Asked if he would be a game-time decision again Tuesday, Embiid responded, “Got to keep them guessing.”
But he doesn’t want to duplicate Game 1′s ending. That and advancing to the second round are kind of the motivation for Game 5.
“I got to keep them guessing,” he added again. "But if I do play, I’m going to be aggressive. We got to close it out tomorrow night. We don’t want to go back to Brooklyn.
“So we got to do whatever is necessary tomorrow.”
Doing whatever is necessary to win applies to both teams. The Nets have nothing to lose. They’re also confident they can win at the Wells Fargo Center after their Game 1 victory on April 13. The Sixers are expecting an emotional game.
The two Atlantic Division rivals have engaged in trash talk, physical play, and an on-court melee. Saturday, during the Sixers’ Game 4 victory, Jimmy Butler and the Nets’ Jared Dudley were ejected. On Sunday, the NBA fined Dudley $25,000 and Butler $15,000 for their actions on Saturday. Nets general manager Sean Marks was also suspended one game without pay and fined $25,000 for entering the referees’ locker room after Saturday’s matchup. And on Monday, Nets alternate governor Joe Tsai was fined $35,00 for making public statement detrimental to the NBA.
Tsai tweeted 10:18 p.m. Sunday, “My partners and I have spoken and the entire Nets ownership group support our GM Sean Marks for protesting the wrong calls and missed calls. NBA rules are rules and we respect that, but our players and fans expect things to be fair.”
The league ruled that his comments in the tweet criticized the integrity of officiating.
Tsai’s comments came after a report on the game’s last two minutes, released by NBA officiating Sunday, indicated that the Sixers committed two fouls that weren’t called. The NBA said Tobias Harris committed a foul by wrapping his arms around Jarrett Allen on a pick with 12.0 seconds left. Then Ben Simmons had a marginal contact foul with 8.1 seconds left before cleanly stealing the ball.
“There’s no secret tomorrow how this game will be played, given the complaints that have surfaced in regards to refereeing,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "What inevitably will be sort of the reaction to the game, I want to get ahead of that as the coach, anticipate different things like that, share stories with my team so we can stay very linear, very straight-line. Just play through noise.