Philadelphia 76ers (3) vs. Brooklyn Nets (6)
Overview: The 76ers and Nets overcame years of being very, very bad at basketball to return to the playoffs. The 76ers lost on purpose to garner high draft picks, while the Nets traded all their good picks years ago to the Celtics for Paul Pierce and some magic beans. So it’s top picks Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, plus trade acquisitions Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, matching up with D’Angelo Russell and an assortment of projects, castoffs, and Afro-wearing shot-blocking machines.
History: The Nets played the Sixers twice in their New Jersey days, losing in 1979 and knocking off the defending champions in 1984. That second series may have been revenge against the Sixers for poaching Julius “Dr. J” Erving when the cash-strapped Nets were joining the NBA.
Arbitrary Reasons For A Rivalry: Besides the Dr. J move, there’s potential for heated rivalries. Brooklyn and Philadelphia are becoming hipster paradises -– Sixers shooting guard/podcaster J.J. Redick actually lives in Brooklyn, despite playing in Philly. We’d love to see some trash talk between Brooklyn food trucks and Wawa merchants over who makes the best hoagies, although it would be real trouble if fans started throwing Tastykakes.
Best Players: Philly’s Joel Embiid had an MVP-caliber season while displaying Hall of Fame-caliber trolling skills online. Ben Simmons made the All-Star team even though he’s never hit a three-pointer, an astounding feat for 2019. Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell played himself into the All-Star Game and never once filmed a teammate without his consent. And Spencer Dinwiddie could win Sixth Man of the Year, though he’s already won Most Dickensian Name for 2018-19.
Celebrity Fans: The Sixers’ top fan remains Will Smith, even after his mom sent him to live with his auntie and uncle in Bel Air. Since Jay-Z moved, it’s hard to call him the Nets No. 1 fan, but no one has taken the throne from him yet. Based on the Nets Celebrity Gallery, it might be Vinny from “Jersey Shore.” Gym, tan, layups, anyone?
Stakes: If Brooklyn wins, Joel Embiid has to open a food truck that serves Shirley Temple on Flatbush Avenue. If Philadelphia wins, everyone on the Nets has to start pronouncing “water” like “wooder.”
Funniest Thing That Happened To The Teams This Season: The 76ers went into a crucial summer with no general manager, after Bryan Colangelo resigned when he was linked to secret Twitter accounts that criticized his own players and defended Colangelo’s own large shirt collars. Former No. 1 draft choice Markelle Fultz forgot how to shoot, got diagnosed with a nerve disorder, and shipped out to Orlando. Jimmy Butler screamed at his teammates and coaches and got mad about video games, and then Philadelphia decided he was the perfect addition to their young core. And the friendship of Tobias Harris and Boban Marjanovic (“Tobi and Bobi”) remained consistently heartwarming, especially after they were traded to Philly together.