The Brooklyn Nets made an emphatic statement on Saturday afternoon, opening up the 2019 NBA Playoffs with an upset 111-102 victory in Game 1 of their first-round series against the 76ers in Philadelphia.
Normally, a single win in the playoffs isn’t usually met with such satisfaction. After all, four wins are needed to move on from a best-of-seven series. But things are different for this Nets team.
The team that averaged 23 wins per year over the previous three seasons has been to hell and back in the NBA.
For head coach Kenny Atkinson, it’s a gigantic step in the evolution and rebranding of the Nets.
“Now you’re going to get me emotional. I don’t want to get emotional,” he said following the surprise victory in Philadelphia. “I don’t think about that stuff. We’re in such a fight. Listen, I know we have to stay humble. I have to stay humble. So I’m not going to celebrate this victory.”
Or so he claimed.
“I’m sure I’m going to look back on it and be extremely happy with how far we’ve come, that we won our first playoff game. It’s very cool. But [the 76ers] lost their first playoff game last year, too, so we’re a humble group and we know how far we’ve got to go. Yes, I’m emotional about it, happy about it, but just got to put that in a little closet or little drawer until after the season.”
He has every right to be pleased with his team’s efforts.
The Nets took a 23-22 lead with 1:58 in the first quarter and never gave it back.
D’Angelo Russell’s huge third quarter which featured 14 of his team-high 26 points helped keep the Sixers at bay just enough as they pulled to within two during the frame.
Yet it was the Brooklyn’s bench that was the x-factor of the afternoon, outscoring Philadelphia’s second unit 59- 26.
Caris LeVert had 23 while Spencer Dinwiddie added another 18 as the Nets’ backcourt rotation was unstoppable.
However, one of the most important players on Brooklyn’s bench was power forward and center Ed Davis, a veteran journeyman who continues to churn out productive outings for his fifth NBA team.
The 29-year-old put up 12 points, 16 rebounds and was a plus-28 in 25 minutes of play.
After the win, he summed up the Nets’ mindsets perfectly.
“We just look at it, we have nothing to lose,” he said (h/t Stefan Bondy, Daily News). “If we go out and get swept, that’s what’s supposed to happen, so you got that mindset – that I don’t care, I don’t give a f*** mentality.”
It might be the perfect way to approach this series as all the pressure will be on the 51-win 76ers to step up and perform like the Eastern Conference contenders that they’re supposed to be.
Brooklyn will have a golden opportunity to show the NBA that it is for real tonight for Game 2 back in Philadelphia (8 p.m. ET, YES, TNT).