Nets forward Mikal Bridges (Bill Moore photo)

The Brooklyn Nets will face another difficult challenge as they have had to overcome obstacles all season when they play the Philadelphia 76ers in the opening round of their best-of-seven playoff series this Saturday at 1p.m. The Nets will be on the road as the No. 6 seed in the East for Games 1 and 2 to begin the postseason while the 76ers will have home court advantage at the Wells Fargo Arena as the No. 3 seed.

The complete Round 1 schedule detailing dates and times will be announced tomorrow. The Nets, which finished the regular season 45-37, and the Sixers, which was 54-28, met four times this season with the Sixers going 4-0. The Nets’ greatest concern is Sixers center Joel Embiid, who is a good bet to win his first career league MVP award. Embiid topped the NBA in scoring at 33.1 points, to go along with 10.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Team defense will be critical in slowing down the 7-foot Embiid, but Nets center Nic Claxton, who has had a strong season on the defensive end, will be the primary defender.    
The Nets and 76ers’ recent history includes the trade of James Harden for Ben Simmons last September in a deal that so far has been one-sided if it’s based on the production of the two players. The 33-year-old, 6-foot-5 Harden played in 58 games this season averaging 21 points, 6.1 rebounds, and a league-high 10.7 assists.
Simmons, a, 26, a 6-foot-10 point-forward, appeared in just 42 games, the last on Feb. 15, due to knee and back issues. He ended his season averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists.

“Ben will not be joining us the rest of the year and through the playoffs,” said Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn a little over two weeks ago in announcing Simmons was being shut down. “After consulting with our doctors, multiple specialists, he’s just going to begin a rehab program. Our doctors and the specialists feel and think that he’ll have a full recovery so that starts now.”

A trade that has worked out well for the Nets’ present and future was the acquisition of forward Mikal Bridges from the Phoenix Suns. The centerpiece of the deal was Kevin Durant, whose Suns are the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference and will meet the No. 5 seed Los Angeles Clippers in Round 1. Since coming to the Nets at the NBA trade deadline, Bridges has averaged 26.1 points for Brooklyn, roughly nine points above his pre-Nets average of 17.2.

The Philadelphia native is excited to get to play against the team he grew up loving. “I was a huge Sixers fan. I mean, everybody knows that,” said Bridges this week. “Just grew up in Philly and grew up going to all the games in the world.”

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