PHILADELPHIA–The Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets have had some emotionally-charged matchups recently. Mostly due to the Ben Simmons-James Harden trade, but whenever these two teams match up, the NBA world fixates its eyes on the two teams.
The Sixers and the Nets feature star power. There’s Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Simmons on the side of the Nets while the Sixers feature Joel Embiid, Harden, and Tyrese Maxey as well as Tobias Harris. On top of that, the two teams are in close proximity to each other.
After a wild 137-133 win over the Nets on Wednesday at home, the Sixers gave their thoughts on whether this matchup is officially a rivalry brewing.
Recent injuries ruin the matchups
“Obviously, we played them a few times in the playoffs since I’ve been here, I think twice (it was only once in Round 1 of 2019),” said Embiid. “We always have a pretty good record against them. I don’t see it as a rivalry. Tonight (Wednesday), obviously, they’re missing their best player so these types of games, it’s cool to win, but when they’re missing their best player, it’s really not the same.”
In the first matchup back on Nov. 22, the Sixers defeated the Nets while missing Embiid, Harden, and Maxey due to injuries.
“Just like the last time, when we were missing all of our three guys and we still won the game, it still doesn’t feel the same but you just take it one game at a time,” Embiid added. “It’s a long regular season. You just try to manage it and try to win every single game.”
The trade adds spice
While Embiid might not feel that this is a rivalry, Georges Niang has a different thought when he considers the Simmons-Harden trade that also included Seth Curry going to Brooklyn.
“Obviously, that’s a rivalry,” said Niang who played some excellent defense against Simmons. “We got James from them, they got Ben from us and Seth, too. I’m sure if you ask Seth and those guys, they’d feel the same way.”
The matchups get attention
Even before the Simmons-Harden trade, the Sixers and Nets were always garnering attention just due to how close the teams are to each other, the star power, and how good both teams are.
“I mean, the games are intense,” added Matisse Thybulle. “I don’t know. It’s a TV game. It’s like Philly and Ben. I think it might have started a little bit before that was even with KD when we played there, but I don’t know. They’re all intense games. I think just us both being in the East, both being better teams in the East, and then also just so close proximity-wise, it’s inevitable. It feels like all the teams in this cluster like Boston, Knicks, Brooklyn, like it’s all kind of a rivalry.”
The game brings a lot of emotions
Wednesday’s game featured six technical fouls with four coming in the first quarter when the teams were feeling the game out. There was a lot of jawing and the Sixers fed into it a bit.
“It’s all fun and it definitely puts a little juice in the back of you,” said Shake Milton. “You know what type of game it’s gonna be. You know what the crowd is gonna be like. So you definitely know it’s gonna have a little extra ‘oomph’, but at the same time, it’s basketball. I think guys know that, too. Of course, there’s a little (expletive) talking going on and stuff like that, but I feel like all the basketball players, they love that type of stuff. So it’s part of the game.”
The emotions continue
The Sixers and the Nets will next match up on Feb. 11 up at Barclays Center. That game will feature Harden’s return to Brooklyn and promises to be more emotion on both sides.
“It’s going to be like this every single time we play,” added Tyrese Maxey. “I think we all know that in this room, but that’s what you love. You love competition, man, and competition is why we play this game. We play the game to win and play the game for joy and that’s what the fans want to see. That was really good out there. The fans love it, I think. Both teams competed extremely hard, and you know, thank God we came out on top this time.”