The familiar sounds of celebration echoed from the visitor’s locker room throughout the Barclays Center corridors. It was impossible not to hear the cheers on the path from the court to the home locker room.
It ended in a sweep — and Joel Embiid wasn’t the janitor on clean-up duty.
The Sixers ruled the NBA’s presumptive MVP out for Game 4 with a sprained right knee sustained in the third quarter of Game 3.
They didn’t need him to handle business at Barclays Center. The Sixers broke out the broomsticks and wiped the floors at Barclays Center, handing the Nets a 96-88 loss in Game 4 that ended their season Saturday afternoon.
The Nets are officially eliminated from the playoffs, while the Sixers will advance to face the winner of the No. 2 vs. No. 7 matchup between the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks.
And it was a particularly disappointing finish to the season given who wasn’t in uniform for the Sixers.
The Nets had done as good a job as any team at limiting Embiid’s scoring dominance. Every game yielded fewer points for the dominant big man who averaged close to 34 points per game during the regular season. In Game 3, the Nets held him to only 14 points.
Without the star big man on the floor, however, the Nets went back to guarding the Sixers straight up.
They took away James Harden, who mustered just 17 points on 18 shot attempts, and limited Tyrese Maxey — who had dominated the Nets in Games 2 and 3 — to just 16 points on 20 attempts.
The Sixers still had more scoring options than Brooklyn, even without Embiid’s individual greatness: Long Island native Tobias Harris scored a game-high 25 points, and De’Anthony Melton added 15 off the bench.
That’s the biggest difference between a Nets team on a one-way flight to Cancun, and a Sixers team likely headed to Boston in a week’s time: The Sixers have players who can score beyond their two franchise cornerstones. Meanwhile, the Nets are still trying to figure out if their franchise player can be the No. 1 scoring option on a playoff team.
Aside from the first half of Game 1, Mikal Bridges struggled to generate offense against the Sixers. He finished with 17 points on 18 shot attempts and airballed a corner three while the Sixers created separation late in the game.
Spencer Dinwiddie tallied 20 points and six assists, and Nic Claxton took advantage of Embiid’s absence and finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. Embiid’s replacement, Paul Reed, grabbed 15 rebounds to go with his 10 points on the night.
The Nets now have a long offseason to make decisions on how best to improve this roster heading into next season. Cam Johnson, who shot 4-of-13 from the field for 11 points in Game 4, becomes a free agent this summer. That’s just one of a number of choices the front office will have to make in the coming months.