Physical Nets handle favored Sixers in opener

Caris LeVert of the Nets dunks while 76ers forward Tobias Harris looks on during Game 1 of their Eastern Conference playoff series.

It took all of one game for the NBA playoffs to experience its first upset, with the visiting Brooklyn Nets stunning the Philadelphia 76ers 111-102 on Saturday.

The Nets took command early and never relented.

“The Nets, we know physicality is No. 1 on our white board. If we’re not physical, we can have all the great schemes and play beautiful offense, but if we don’t rebound the ball, if we don’t come with physicality against their level of physicality, we won’t have a chance.”

D’Angelo Russell scored 19 of his 26 points in the first half to pave the way, and Caris LeVert added 23. Ed Davis came of the bench to add 12 points and 16 rebounds in a surprise performance.

Meanwhile, the Sixers were out of sorts most of the afternoon despite boasting what many consider to be the East’s starting five in Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick.

But the Nets took them entirely out of their game plan.

“[General manager] Sean Marks has done a great job and Kenny’s done a great job with players he’s been provided,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “Their rebuild is different. They’re both incredibly difficult because we had to get some ping pong balls right. His version, you have to pay some people and hope they came good, take a chance on D’Angelo Russell and that came good. That seems to be a hell of a smart decision.”

Butler scored a game-high 36 points to lead the Sixers. But Harris and Redick were each 2-of-7 shooting for a combined nine points.

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