Spencer Dinwiddie (278477)
Credit: Bill Moore photo

It’s not the Buster Douglass upset of Mike Tyson or the Boston Red Sox’s demolishing of the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, but the Brooklyn Nets’ win over the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday afternoon was shocking, unexpected. But why?

The Sixers finished the regular season as a 3 seed, 51 wins, 31 losses. They finished in the upper echelons of the Eastern Conference behind the Milwaukee Bucks, 1, and the Toronto Raptors, 2.

Philly led the second tier of good Eastern Conference teams. The Boston Celtics, the 4 seed with 49 wins, the Indiana Pacers the 5 with 48.

Brooklyn, the 6 seed at 42 and 40, led the third, the lower tier of qualifiers, the Orlando Magic, 7, and the Detroit Pistons 8. Both narrowly making the post season.

There was a six-game difference of wins separating Brooklyn and Indiana, seven games separating the Sixers and Toronto, but during the regular season, despite Philly’s second tier ranking, Brooklyn was able to defeat the Sixers twice out of the four times that they’ve played. Once at home, once in Philly. Their first win in early November was by 25 points. In games two and three Brooklyn and Philly played each other competitively, Brooklyn losing by two at home, and winning by three down there.

In Saturday’s first post season game, Brooklyn outscored the opponent two out of the four quarters by 12 points, losing the other two. They dominated the first quarter, setting the tone 31-22. Their bench outscored Philly 59 to 26, 23 for Caris LeVert, 18 for Spencer Dinwiddie.

In Game 2 Monday night, Brooklyn and Philly battled to 65-64 at halftime, but that’s where the parity ceased.

Brooklyn went cold in the third quarter, getting outscored 51-23. The Sixers started the second half with a 14-0 run, setting the Nets back 28 points. Their 36-29 fourth quarter, garbage time, wasn’t enough to depart Philly 2-0.

“They got into us. I’d classify it as extreme physicality,” said Nets’ head coach Kenny Atkinson, summarizing Game 2. “They denied us, held us, pushed us.” Philly dominated the paint and the boards.

How Brooklyn responds tonight, Thursday, Game 3 here at Barclays is important now. They were able to contain Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in Game 1, winning that one, losing Game 2 Monday night 145-123, a split, bringing the series to Atlantic and Flatbush for Games 3 and 4. But they’ll need the “Brooklyn Grit” that they claim to have. They’ll have to match the Sixers physicality to advance to Game 6 and or 7.

“We can go toe to toe with these guys,” stated Atkinson confidently after Monday’s loss, noting the one bad quarter, ready to put it behind them.

“One thing about the Brooklyn Nets, they’ve always bounced back, and they’ve always responded.

I expect our guys to respond.”