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Basketball Philadelphia 76ers look to take series stranglehold against the Nets in Brooklyn

Philadelphia 76ers' Boban Marjanovic, right, shoots over Brooklyn Nets' Ed Davis, center, during the first half in Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, April 18.

Frank Franklin II/The Associated Press

The Philadelphia 76ers will be searching for a commanding 3-1 series lead when they visit the Brooklyn Nets Saturday in Game 4 of an Eastern Conference opening-round playoff series.

Conversely, the Nets will be looking to even the series.

The third-seeded Sixers grabbed the upper hand with a 131-115 win on Thursday, without all-star center Joel Embiid. After arriving to the arena about 65 minutes before Game 3, Embiid eventually sat out with left knee soreness.

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Embiid’s status is listed as doubtful for Game 4.

The Sixers’ other all-star, Ben Simmons, stepped up in a major way and scored a playoff career-high 31 points on 11-of-13 shooting while handing out nine assists. Nets forward Jared Dudley had been critical of Simmons, especially his shooting and over all play in half-court sets.

Simmons appeared to make a gesture at Dudley after one of his baskets.

“I think we forget he’s 22 years old,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said of Simmons. “We start talking about his growth in his jump shot – all this stuff everyone talks about – and then you see him come out and make the free throws.

“Whether he’s getting booed or there’s something else going on with some level of scrutinizing Ben, he is incredibly confident within himself.”

Tobias Harris also poured in a playoff career-high 29 points to go along with 16 rebounds. It was arguably his best game since joining the Sixers in a late-season trade from the Los Angeles Clippers, as he also made all six of his three-pointers.

“Obviously towards the end of the regular season we really didn’t play that well,” Harris said. “Also, it added more motivation for us as a group with our best player down. We all needed to pick it up and step it up, stick to the game plan and be even more focused.”

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The sixth-seeded Nets took Game 1 in Philadelphia before struggling defensively and allowing 145 points in Game 2. For much of Game 3, the Nets looked disjointed on both offense and defense despite closing within seven late in the third quarter.

Caris LeVert and D’Angelo Russell paced the Nets with 26 points apiece.

But the Nets will need to make changes on the defensive end if they want to even the series.

“I think we have to look at everything,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said. “It starts defensively in terms of what we have to do. I think we look at lineups. It’s only 1-2. We come back here Saturday and if we win, it’s a different series.

“I think we have to look at some different things. Obviously, what we have been doing the last two games is not working.”

The Nets also launched a franchise playoff record 39 shots from beyond the three-point arc but made just eight. Russell was 2 of 9, and Joe Harris missed all four of his attempts.

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“We’re an attacking team,” LeVert said. “We’re gonna attack the rim at all costs. Sometimes that little floater’s open, but we got the shots we wanted tonight. We just missed a couple looks.”

The Game 3 loss was the Nets’ first home playoff game in four years.

Embiid’s status could remain up in the air until shortly before game time once again. While he told reporters his knee is “slowly but surely” getting better, he also said the discomfort has been unpredictable depending on the day.

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