Mikal Bridges scores 30 points but Nets lose Game 1 vs. 76ers

Apr 15, 2023, 12:54 PM

Brooklyn Nets' Mikal Bridges reacts during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game agains...

Brooklyn Nets' Mikal Bridges reacts during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Friday, March 3, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

PHILADELPHIA — James Harden hit seven 3-pointers and had 23 points and 13 assists, NBA MVP finalist Joel Embiid scored 26 points and the Philadelphia 76ers pushed back Mikal Bridges and the Brooklyn Nets in a 121-101 Game 1 victory on Saturday.

Tobias Harris added 21 points and the 76ers hit a postseason team-record 21 3s in the opener of this Eastern Conference playoff series. The Sixers are trying to win their first NBA championship since 1983 and advance past the second round for the first time since 2001.

The No. 3-seeded 76ers host Game 2 on Monday.

Bridges, whom Brooklyn acquired from the Phoenix Suns during the season, scored 30 points and helped the Nets at least hang around in the first half.

But Brooklyn’s starless roster was no match for Embiid, Harden and a playoff-tested roster expected to make a deep run in the postseason. The Sixers had a sellout crowd of 20,913 in a frenzy from the opening tip, then blew the game open in the fourth.

Philly got it done even without a vintage effort from Embiid.

Embiid made only 7 of 15 shots (and all 11 free throws) and was flustered at times around the rim. Embiid was smacked in the face on a missed dunk that sent him crashing to the court in an attempt to draw a flagrant foul. Embiid got heated when he had his arm locked up by Royce O’Neale and the two briefly tussled.

No worries. Harden, who topped the league in assists this season, picked up the slack.

Harden’s ineffectiveness around the rim in the first half — he was 1 of 8 on 2s — was offset by his 5-of-7 shooting on 3s. He buried two 3s late in the second quarter that stretched the lead to double digits.

Embiid, the NBA scoring champion, could not impose his will against Brooklyn as he had this season to become an MVP finalist. He only took seven shots in the first half.

Unlike the regular season, when the Sixers were crushed by the non-Embiid minutes, the reserves came through. De’Anthony Melton, Jalen McDaniels and Georges Niang all hit 3s — the 76ers made 13 of 21 in the half — to keep them in control of Game 1.

Bridges kept Game 1 from becoming an early rout in a homecoming effort.

Bridges attended Great Valley High School in Malvern, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia, then played three seasons at Villanova. Bridges helped the Wildcats win two national championship — the 2016 and 2018 national championship banners hang in the Wells Fargo Center rafters. Bridges seemed he would stay in the area when he was drafted by the 76ers with the No. 10 pick in the 2018 draft.

Then came a pair of embarrassments in rapid succession: Bridges celebrated on draft night with his mom, who worked at the time for the 76ers. The feel-good reunion lasted about 15 minutes and Bridges was traded to Phoenix for Zhaire Smith. Bridges is now a bona fide NBA star while Smith flamed out after only 13 career NBA games.

Philly fans can only imagine Bridges in this lineup.

He made 10 of 16 shots for 23 points in the first half and kept the Nets, who opened the season with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and championship aspirations, within nine at halftime.

Phoenix Suns

David Fizdale, Phoenix Suns...

Arizona Sports

Report: Suns hiring assistant David Fizdale on Frank Vogel’s staff

The Phoenix Suns will reportedly add former Grizzlies and Knicks head coach David Fizdale to new head coach Frank Vogel's staff.

1 day ago

Associate head coach Kevin Young of the Phoenix Suns during the first half of the NBA game against ...

Arizona Sports

Kevin Young to reportedly stay with Suns as NBA’s top-paid assistant

The Suns have reportedly agreed on a deal with assistant coach Kevin Young to remain on head coach Frank Vogel's coaching staff.

3 days ago

Former Suns head coach Monty Williams...

Arizona Sports

Pistons agree to deal with former Suns HC Monty Williams

Former Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams has agreed to a six-year deal worth $72 million to coach the Detroit Pistons.

4 days ago

Frank Vogel, Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns...

Kevin Zimmerman

What does Frank Vogel’s hire tell us about how Suns build the roster?

Frank Vogel agreeing to become the Phoenix Suns' head coach gives us a North Star of sorts for how the team will begin constructing a roster.

4 days ago

Frank Vogel...

Dan Bickley

Frank Vogel more than enough coach to lead Suns over championship hump

Frank Vogel is a solid choice, more than enough head coach to get where the Suns need to go. Now comes the hard part.

4 days ago

Former Suns F Mikal Bridges' Paradise Valley home for sale...

Arizona Sports

Former Suns forward Mikal Bridges sells Valley home for $6.68 million

It didn't take long for former Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges to sell his luxurious Paradise Valley home.

4 days ago

Mikal Bridges scores 30 points but Nets lose Game 1 vs. 76ers