Joel Embiid didn’t play during Game 3 of the first round Thursday night against the Brooklyn Nets because of knee tendinitis. But Brett Brown did well adjusting the Philadelphia 76ers’ lineup so the team could maximize its talent.
Brown placed Greg Monroe in the starting lineup, and Monroe split time with Boban Marjanovic. Monroe and Marjanovic combined for 43 minutes, and they combined for 21 of the Sixers’ 54 rebounds.
The Sixers defeated the Nets 131-115 on the road to take a 2-1 series lead, and Monroe and Marjanovic were both effective inside on offense.
They benefited from receiving passes out of the pick and roll from Ben Simmons, and they also used their size well to score easy buckets in the post. Marjanovic scored 14 points on 60 percent shooting, and Monroe had nine on 30.8 percent shooting.
Though the Sixers didn’t have their best interior defender in Embiid, they performed well as a team in defending around the rim. Monroe and Marjanovic weren’t burdened with defending the paint; Sixers wings such as Tobias Harris defended the Nets’ guards on the perimeter well for most of the game.
With Monroe and Marjanovic not being burdened on defense, that helped the Sixers be in a better position near the end of the game as well.
Marjanovic fouled out with just over seven minutes left in the game, but Brown adjusted his lineup well again. He didn’t put in Monroe, but he moved Simmons to center with the Sixers up 110-101. This was when the Sixers broke open their lead. Simmons scored a playoff career-high 31 points, and he scored 15 points in the fourth quarter.
As the Sixers look to take a 3-1 lead in Game 4, Embiid’s status will likely be questionable again until before the game. And even though the Sixers played well without him, they’re going to need him to close out the series.
But if the Sixers have to play without Embiid again, Brown has created a solid roadmap for them with the lineups he used in Game 3. The Sixers and Nets will play Game 4 on Saturday at 3 p.m. EST.