The stage has been set for a marquee matchup on Wedesday between the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, both of whom have 37-17 records as they sit tied atop the Eastern Conference standings.
No, the game won’t flash all of its potential luster — James Harden will miss the game as he continues to sit with a hamstring strain, and Kyrie Irving’s status is up in the air after he missed Tuesday’s win against the Minnesota Timberwolves due to personal reasons.
But it’s still a showdown of the East’s favorites.
Sixers star Joel Embiid put a lot of stock in the matchup, saying Wednesday’s game is more important than a regular game because the No. 1 seed is on the line, per CBS Sports NBA writer Michael K-B.
Ben Simmons, meanwhile, took that line of thinking in a different direction.
ALL the latest Nets news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Nets newsletter here!
Join Heavy on Nets!
Simmons throws shade at Nets
Never mind Brooklyn’s Big Three of Durant, Harden and Irving. Never mind the fact that SuperBook Sports currently gives the Nets the best odds to win the NBA championship at +200.
— SuperBook Sports (@SuperBookSports) April 12, 2021
Brooklyn is still not the team to beat in the NBA — at least not in the mind of Simmons.
“We’re going for the past champs, the Lakers,” the three-time All-Star said after Phidelphia’s win over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night. “They were the ones who won a championship (last season), so you got to give the respect to them. Obviously Brooklyn has a lot of talent. But at the end of the day, there’s only one ball and you got to play defense, too.”
To that last point, the Nets entered Wednesday ranked seventh-worst in the NBA with 114.4 points allowed per game. The only Eastern Conference team allowing more points per game is Washington, which has a 20-33 record this season.
But contradicting Simmons’ first point is the Nets’ record since acquiring Harden through a four-team trade in mid-January. They’re 30-11 over that span, with Harden emerging as the perfect floor general for Brooklyn’s star-loaded roster.
All of that begs the question: Going forward, will the Sixers and Nets develop a rivalry?
“If they keep that same team, definitely,” Simmons said. “But it’s going to be hard to do that.”
Follow the Heavy on Nets Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content out of Brooklyn!
Will Durant Play Against Sixers?
As it stands, Wednesday’s edition of the budding rivlalry won’t carry quite the weight it otherwise would if Harden was healthy. Irving, meanwhile, is a complete question mark; Nets coach Steve Nash said on Tuesday that he wasn’t sure if Irving would rejoin the team in Philadelphia on Wednesday, per Alex Schiffer of The Athletic.
As for Durant? That’s TBD, too.
The 11-time All-Star said he contineus to feel good and get his wind back, per Schiffer, but will see how he feels Wednesday morning before any decision about his status for the game in Philly.
KD played 27 minutes on Tuesday in helping to lead Brooklyn to a blowout win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, his biggest workload since rejoining the team after the hamstring strain that cost him 23 straight games.
READ NEXT: Nets Opt Not to Trade Spencer Dinwiddie, Who Has Hilarious Reaction [LOOK]