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Tyrese Maxey scored 33 points, Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris had 20 apiece, and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Brooklyn Nets 96-84 on Monday night to take a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference playoff series.
Embiid, the two-time NBA scoring champion, was quiet offensively, going 6 of 11 from the floor, but he did just about everything else. The MVP finalist had 19 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks.
Harris had 12 rebounds. James Harden scored only eight points on 3-of-13 shooting for the Sixers after a sensational Game 1 effort.
The Announced three finalists for seven different awards set to recognize some of the top performers from the 2022-23 regular season: MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Clutch Player of the Year, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year and Coach of the Year. The winners will be announced in the coming weeks (specific dates and times are yet to be provided by the league for each announcement).
In the meantime, we’ve got our CBS Sports staff predictions for these seven awards plus Executive of the Year. There are a lot of tight calls, but ultimately we were unanimous in our picks for Clutch Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player and Coach of the Year. Notably, each of the three MVP candidates got at least two first-place votes from our staff.
Cam Johnson led the Nets with 28 points. Johnson sent Embiid stumbling on a one-handed dunk down the right side that posterized the 7-footer. Johnson stared down Embiid as the Nets forward backpedaled on defense in the first half.
“It was time for us to realize we need to be ready,” Harris said of the timeout speech. “We need to pick our energy up. We need to pick our body language up. This is our arena. This is our home floor. This is our win that we need to get.”
Maxey, who kept the Sixers alive with 15 points in the first half, was stuffed by the rim on a fast break but Harris followed for the bucket and the 76ers finally tied the game at 55-all. Maxey didn’t miss on the next possession — a corner 3 that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Then PJ Tucker missed a 3, grabbed his own rebound, dished to Harden and the Beard buried his first 3 of the game. Harris came right back and connected on a 3 that had him hopping and waving his arms off the court headed into a timeout.
No Sixer represented that fall more than Harden. His seven 3s steadied the Sixers in the opener but the aging vet — who battled left Achilles tendon soreness down the stretch of the regular season — was overwhelmed in Game 2. He missed 6 of 7 shots in the first half and all four 3-point attempts. Throw in two fouls and five turnovers and it was a marvel the Sixers only trailed 49-44 at the break.
“As bad as we played offensively we were only down five points,” Maxey said. “We knew if we could get our offense to catch up to our defense, and continue to be stingy on defense, we knew we had a shot.”
Holding only a slim lead had to distress the Nets. Johnson scored 22 points in the half but — much like in Game 1 — the Nets got crushed on the boards and in the paint. Embiid scored eight points but grabbed 15 boards, 13 defensive.
Embiid, who wore a “Best Dad Ever” sweatshirt at the podium after his young son tagged along with him after Game 1, made up for some offensive frustration with a two-handed jam late in the game that brought the crowd to its feet.
“We held Embiid under his average,” Nets forward Dorian Finney-Smith said. “They were just the best team tonight. They found a way to pull it out.”
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