Ben Simmons has posted triple-doubles in back-to-back games after totaling 13 points, 12 assists and ten rebounds in Philadelphia’s 118-110 victory over New York on Thursday night. It was eighth triple-double of the season, moving him ahead of Magic Johnson for second-most among rookie players.
Since the 76ers (37-30) have only 15 games left, Simmons cannot catch Oscar Robertson’s rookie standard of 26 established in the 1960/61 season. Philadelphia, who are looking for their sixth win in nine games, are one game behind Washington for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Joel Embiid paced Philadelphia’s offense with 29 points and Dario Saric added 21 as both players recorded double-doubles. Embiid pulled down ten rebounds and Saric had 12 as the 76ers turned 19 offensive rebounds into 18 second-chance points.
Brooklyn (21-47) have lost back-to-back games and 18 of 21 overall following a 116-102 loss to Toronto at home Tuesday night. D’Angelo Russell hit seven of 12 from 3-point range and finished with 32 points, his most in 22 games since returning from a knee injury in mid-January.
While the Nets have surpassed their win total of last season, they are still on pace for a third consecutive 50-loss season and fourth straight sub-.500 campaign. Brooklyn are looking for back-to-back road wins for the first time since beating Dallas and Atlanta on November 29 and December 4 after snapping a ten-game skid there with a 125-118 victory at Charlotte on March 8.
Three keys to the game
Two Ben Simmons streaks to ponder - The No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft has recorded at least five assists in 26 consecutive games, averaging 8.5 in that span with a 2.89 assist-to-turnover ratio. The other is an underrated streak that shows just how consistently he can get to the rim; Simmons has not attempted a 3-pointer in 30 games since missing one against San Antonio on January 3.
Nets fizzle after sizzling start - Brooklyn have played well in spurts all season, and that was the case again versus the Raptors. Russell looked like a character out of a video game in the opening 12 minutes, hitting seven of eight from 3-point range and scoring 24 of Brooklyn's 40 points. The Nets then looked like, well, the Nets the rest of the game as they scored just 62 points and hit eight 3-pointers the rest of the way.
Embiid on back-to-backs - Since being cleared to play in every game, the 76ers center has played four times on the back end of games on consecutive nights. Embiid has averaged 25.3 points and 12.8 rebounds in those games, recording double-doubles in all of them. But if there's one area that needs improvement, it is his shooting; Embiid has shot 43.2 percent in those games, in part because he is four of 20 from 3-point range.
Matchup to watch
C Dante Cunningham vs C Joel Embiid - It is a homecoming of sorts for Nets center Dante Cunningham, who played collegiately at Villanova. He is playing the pivot by default as the Nets have gone with a four-out, one-in look offensively with Allen Crabbe at the three and DeMarre Carroll at the four.
Cunningham had ten points and four assists Wednesday night in his first start with Brooklyn and has averaged 7.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in 12 games since being acquired from New Orleans.
But this is not a favorable matchup as Cunningham is giving up four inches and 30 pounds to Embiid. He's already seen the 76ers center up close as Embiid had 21 points and eight rebounds in just over 26 minutes in Philadelphia's 120-97 rout at Brooklyn on Saturday. Embiid has totaled 50 points and 22 rebounds in the two meetings this season and has averaged 25.8 points and 9.3 rebounds in four career matchups.
Brooklyn Nets projected starting lineup
PG - Spencer Dinwiddie | SG - D'Angelo Russell | C - Dante Cunningham | SF - Allen Crabbe | PF - DeMarre Carroll
Philadelphia 76ers projected starting lineup
PG - Ben Simmons | SG - J. J. Redick | C - Joel Embiid | SF - Robert Covington | PF - Dario Saric
Russell has been feast or famine in his last seven games, scoring 20 or more in four of them while being held to single digits in two others. He has averaged 18.9 points and 4.9 assists in that span while shooting 45.1 percent from beyond the arc.
He had 26 in Saturday's loss and has totaled 48 in the two matchups this season, making six of 13 from beyond the arc. The third-year pro is averaging 15.3 points and 4.2 assists in six lifetime games against the Nets, shooting 38.2 percent overall and 34.4 percent from long range.
Russell's backcourt partner Spencer Dinwiddie is one of the few players who has the size to counteract Simmons at 6' 6". He also has enjoyed a breakout season in Brooklyn and has averaged 12.2 points and 8.1 assists in his last 19 games while compiling a 4.97 assist-to-turnover ratio.
He was held to 13 points and six assists in Saturday's loss, but had 27 points in a 116-108 Nets win on January 31.
Simmons had a tidy 11 points, six assists and six rebounds in Saturday's victory and has totaled 35 points and 13 assists in the two games, making 15 of 25 shots and committing just two turnovers.
Saric notched his second double-double in the last seven games, but his perimeter shooting has been stellar as he has made 21 of 41 from 3-point range in that span while averaging 18.6 points and 7.0 rebounds. He hit a pair of treys and finished with 18 points Saturday while making eight of 11 shots, which was an improvement on his 3-of-12 shooting in the January 31 loss.
The 76ers have been established as nine-point favorites for this game as they try to improve on a 3-7-1 record against the spread in their last 11 games when playing on the back end of consecutive nights. Their home winning streak has given them some momentum with betters, going 10-2 against the number in their last 12 games there and covering in their last eight at home versus teams with a losing record.
Philadelphia are also 15-3 against the spread in their last 18 Friday games, but are looking to buck a trend in which the road teams have gone 5-1 in the last six meetings.
The Nets, though, have covered in their last five road games against teams with a winning home record and have covered in four of their last five road games overall. Brooklyn are 1-4 against the number in their last five matchups with Atlantic Division rivals.
The over/under is 217.5 points, but the under has been the strong play for both teams recently. It has gone 7-2 in Philadelphia's last nine games overall and last nine in conference play and also has hit the last five times the 76ers have played on the back end of consecutive nights.
For Brooklyn, the under is 10-4 in their last 14 matchups with conference foes and 9-2 in their last 11 against teams with a winning record. The under has also come through with a 5-1-1 mark in the last seven meetings in Philadelphia and 11-3-2 in the last 16 overall.
If the 76ers have any designs on home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs, they have to sweep a three-game home stand that starts with this contest and continues with Charlotte and Memphis. But the primary goal should be maintaining the sixth spot and avoiding Toronto and Boston in the first round.
Philadelphia are also looking to start a new home winning streak after having their 12-game run ended by Indiana on Tuesday night. The 76ers have only lost three home games to teams with sub-.500 records, with the last one coming to Sacramento on December 19.
The Nets are clearly building from the backcourt out with Russell and Dinwiddie, but their shortcomings in the frontcourt are hard to hide, especially in a matchup with a Sixers team that gets points by the bushel from Embiid, Saric and even Robert Covington.
Fatigue may play a role for a while given the 76ers had to rally against the Knicks, but they have too much at stake to have a letdown. Look for Philadelphia to pull away late for a 109-103 win.
The game will be televised locally on YES Network and NBC Sports Philadelphia. Tip-off time is 7 pm EDT.
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