For the second straight game, the 76ers played the Brooklyn Nets without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, so it’s difficult to make too many conclusions, but a few things came out of the game that were positives for the Sixers in Saturday’s 124-108 win over the Brooklyn Nets at the Wells Fargo Center.
One positive is they won the game, which they couldn’t do the previous time with both All-Stars out when the Nets earned a 122-109 victory on Jan. 7.
One difference in the two games was that Seth Curry didn’t play in last month’s game. He was out with an ankle injury and later that night was told he tested positive for COVID-19. All told, he missed seven games.
Prior to Saturday night, in his previous two games, Curry was held scoreless and didn’t return after halftime of Thursday’s 121-105 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers because he wasn’t feeling well. He went eight straight quarters without scoring a point.
After the game, coach Doc Rivers, who is also Curry’s father-in-law, expressed concern over the 30-year-old shooting guard’s lack of energy.
Curry was listed as questionable due to illness pregame, but he was in the starting lineup and ended with 11 points, four assists, and zero turnovers in 26 minutes, 41 seconds.
While it may be premature to suggest that Curry has turned things around, Saturday’s performance was a positive step, according to Rivers.
“It was probably one of the better signs of the game,” Rivers said of Curry’s performance. “I thought early on, he looked a little slow but then you could see ... he started getting buckets, started getting loose, and you could see he was starting to move better, so that was really a positive sign for us.”
Rivers then added: “I think it’s the first time since he has been back, other than the first game, that he looked relatively normal.”
On Jan. 22, in Curry’s first game back, he scored 15 points and hit 3 of 5 three-pointers in a 122-110 home win over Boston. In the next seven games, he averaged 6.3 points and shot 21.1% from three-point range.
After Saturday’s win, Curry said he is still trying to get his body right.
“I haven’t been feeling great over the past week or two, but I am just trying to work through it and trying to figure out how to get my body and my mind right back in the flow of playing. But the team needs me out there, so I’m trying to go out there and give them what I got right now,” Curry said. “It’s good to get another win under our belt tonight.”
Even with his slump, Curry is still shooting 49.3% from three and averaging 12.1 points.
Curry says it has been difficult since he returned to the lineup.
“There has been some fatigue off and on ever since I came back, honestly. Obviously this is new territory and I am trying to figure it out,” Curry said. “Listening to the doctors and trainers and work through it while trying to get my game in order at the same time.”
Curry came alive in the third quarter, scoring eight points, while hitting 3 of 4 shots, including his only three-point attempt. He also had two assists and a blocked shots in 5:27.
“I felt a little bit better all night, even in the first half, when I wasn’t making shots, I felt better than I have in the past week or two,” Curry said. “I think the key for me tonight was I was able to get a little of my burst back and have more energy out on the floor offensively and defensively.”
The Sixers broke the game open in the third quarter, outscoring the Nets, 43-30. It’s no coincidence that Curry’s play that quarter played a major role. For Curry, it is all about playing with energy.
“When I play with energy, I may create stuff for myself but also for my teammates,” Curry said. “I think in that third quarter, that showed.”
Now, Curry and his teammates have a few days to rest. The Sixers (17-7) return to action on Tuesday when they begin the first of a four-game road trip in Sacramento.