PHILADELPHIA — Can teamwork trump talent? The Nets are going to find out.
Brooklyn’s first-round playoff series has started in earnest now that they’ve stolen a road game. The chess match begins as they prepare for the adjustments the 76ers are sure to make for Monday’s Game 2.
“It’s fun. It’s so different than regular season, where you’ve really got time to prepare. You spend more time with your staff, which is cool,” Kenny Atkinson said. “We can make some changes, too. We’re not thinking, ‘OK, we won, let’s stay 100 percent with what we did.’ We have to be ahead of the game and figure what we can do better.”
What they will have to do is at least slow Jimmy Butler (who had 36 points in Game 1), avoid foul trouble and brace for even more physicality.
“This is what it’s about. You can’t show up to work scared. Teams will see that and be all over it,” D’Angelo Russell said. “Obviously they’re going to switch up things and come with different looks. … It’s what makes the game so fun. They may switch it up, they may not. We want to have that same aggression.”
From a macro sense, the Nets’ hope to limit two of the 76ers’ four perimeter players. That’ll include attacking JJ Redick on defense with their troika of guards (Russell, Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie) to make him work, then keep Ben Simmons out of transition and in the halfcourt.
“What you do with those four guys is try to make it tough for two of them,” Jared Dudley said. “[For] JJ that was getting him in foul trouble. For us that has to be a game plan all series, because he has to play so he has to [defend] pick-and-rolls.
“Simmons is the key because in transition he’s hard to guard. In the halfcourt we’ve had success with him. So can we limit him in transition and keep him more on the outside? We’ll see how it goes. They’ll make an adjustment and we’ll have to keep adjusting on the fly.”
The Nets are banking on their chemistry making it easier for them to adjust on the fly than a 76ers starting five that logged just 161 minutes together coming into the playoffs, none since their last March 28 meeting.
“There’s no way they’re going to have the same chemistry as us. We’re trying to use that to our advantage,” Dudley said. “Even though they may be more talented, more All-Stars, who gets the ball when they need a basket?
“If stuff’s breaking down, you see Jimmy running to the ball, [Joel] Embiid wants to post up, Ben Simmons is trying to find his spots if he’s not in transition. We’re trying to take away these 1-on-1 situations and make them have to pass two or three times. This is a team that doesn’t want to do that. … If we can limit what they want to do with help defense, we like our chances.”