Looking at the big picture, the Brooklyn Nets probably would have been happy getting a split in Philadelphia over the first two games of their first-round playoff series against the 76ers.
In fact, that's exactly what Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson admitted to following the 76ers' blowout win in Game 2, even if there were major reasons for concern.
Monday night provided a reminder that the 76ers are still, in fact, one of the premier sides in basketball, using a monster second half in which they outscored Brooklyn 80-59 to fuel a decisive 145-123 victory that eliminated any good feelings the Nets had following a surprise Game 1 victory.
Philadelphia's starting five provided a strong response from the series-opening dud, returning to form after JJ Redick, Tobias Harris, and Ben Simmons combined for just 18 points in Game 1.
Harris recorded 19 on Monday night while Redick added 17. Simmons added the exclamation point with a triple-double of 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists — a much-needed bounce back after getting on the Sixers fans for booing the team in Game 1.
"I was thinking about the boos from last game," Simmons said jokingly. "I got a lot of love for this city and the fans here. Every time I step on the floor I try and play as hard as I can, I was just showing that."
It took that much pressure off All-Star center Joel Embiid, who continues to play through knee tendinitis issues as the supporting cast's second-half output allowed head coach Brett Brown to rest the big man for the night.
The Sixers led by just one at halftime before putting up 51 points in the third quarter, tied for the most in a quarter in NBA playoff history.
"Coach really got into us," Harris said. "It was fiery."
"Yeah, he came in here and said a few cuss words. Shocked me a little bit, to tell you the truth," Jimmy Butler, who was held to just seven points, said. "But I like it. That's the type of energy I love. Just make sure everybody did their job, letting them know you can't have it — it's not winning basketball."
In just 21 minutes of play, Embiid was still unstoppable with 23 points and 10 rebounds, further exposing Brooklyn's inability to control play near the basket.
For Brown, it's a dangerous game to play with the health of his star, but he believes that he's mastered the art of utilizing the 25-year-old.
"Let's face it, it's not ideal, but I have been used to his and whatever it takes with Joel in relation to his health, I'm so far past the anxiety of getting information late," Brown said as Embiid was a game-time decision in Game 1. "I'm numb to it. I'm past it... This is just the path we're on with Joel. There's zero doubt he's our crown jewel."
With Jared Dudley out injured with a strained calf and Ed Davis playing through a sprained ankle on Monday night, second-year center Jarrett Allen was constantly bullied down low by Embiid — including a nasty elbow to the side of the head that saw the Sixers star hit with a flagrant 1 foul. He was lucky not to be thrown out of the game.
Embiid, Simmons, and reserve center Boban Marjanovic combined for 28 rebounds alone on the night, just four fewer than the Nets had as a team. Philadelphia outrebounded Brooklyn 49-32 on the night and outscored the Nets 62-48 in the paint, which was a big issue for Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson.
"They dominated us in the paint, dominated on the boards," Atkinson said. "As a team, we did not rebound. The first team did not rebound. And we've got to pick that up. If we don't find a solution to our rebounding woes, it's going to be over quick. It's on Jarrett to pick it up, and it's on the rest of those guys, too."
While the Nets were taken advantage of in the paint, their outside shooting went ice cold.
After hitting 10 three's in the first half, they hit just five the rest of the night as the Sixers keyed in on the long-range sniper, Joe Harris, all game. The 2019 NBA three-point contest champion was limited to just four attempts from beyond the arc in Game 2, hitting just one.
"Credit to them, they did a good job denying Joe," Nets star guard D'Angelo Russell said (h/t New York Post). "We definitely need him to go for us to go. We'll look at the film, see what we can do."
Russell was held to 16 points on the night on 3-of-7 shooting from three-point range — the same mark as Spencer Dinwiddie, who recorded a team-high 19 in the loss.
For Atkinson and the Nets, it's simply time to flip the page and focus on gaining some momentum back home in Brooklyn for Game 3 on Thursday night.
"One bad quarter, we're going to have to flush it and understand, one thing about the Brooklyn Nets this season, they've always bounced back and always responded after a game like this," Atkinson said. "I expect our guys to respond."