PHILADELPHIA — If there was one glaring deficiency in the Nets’ Game 1 win over the 76ers that they must address before Game 2 Monday night at Wells Fargo Center, it is the hole in the middle of the doughnut where center Jarrett Allen was supposed to be. Allen got into early foul trouble against bruising 76ers center Joel Embiid and played only 9:39, producing two points and five rebounds in the opener of the first-round playoff series.
Fortunately for the Nets, backup Ed Davis responded with 12 points and 16 rebounds and Jared Dudley also played well defensively as a small-ball five man. Both are listed as questionable for Game 2 because Davis sprained his right ankle and Dudley’s right calf tightened, so it is even more important for Allen to play well.
“We’re asking him to do a lot of things for a young player,” coach Kenny Atkinson said of Allen before practice Sunday at Temple University. “We’re asking him to help off Embiid. We’re paying a lot of attention to JJ Redick, so he’s got to clean up some back doors. It’s not just ‘hey, play your man.’ We need him to play team defense.
“I don’t think it was just pure physicality, him getting overpowered. It was more positioning.”
Asked if Allen must be more careful about not leaving his feet to block shots, Atkinson said: “Amen. And Rodi [Rodions Kurucs], too. I think it’s being young. Ed Davis has seen Joel’s pump fake a thousand times. Those [young] guys just don’t have the experience. Until they do, it’s tough for them to stay down.”
Said Allen, “Normally, my mentality is to go for the block . . . I have to be in front of Joel if I go up to contest the shot, the verticality rule. I was kind of on the side. That’s a little adjustment I have to make. It was position.”
At 7 feet, 260 pounds, Embiid is a load for anyone to stop in the NBA, but that’s especially true for the 6-11, 237-pound Allen, who still is building strength. As long as the referees allow Embiid to back down defenders when he gets the ball in the low post, he’s either going to score or draw fouls.
“You just have to firm up,” Allen said. “You have to use your strength against him. That’s really all you can do.”
Allen’s strengths, in addition to his shot-blocking, are his speed and agility. He can use those skills to get position to deny the entry pass to Embiid. More importantly, Dudley said the Nets need Allen to stay on the court because of his importance running the pick-and-roll on offense with the Nets’ guards.
“This is a good series for J.A. to have to learn and watch film,” Dudley said. “You can’t just put your arms out. It’s movement and timing and when to be able to use your arm guard. We’re going to need J.A. He can’t just get in foul trouble because, offensively, he gives us such a boost.”
Embiid played through the pain of a sore left knee in Game 1 and produced 22 points, 15 rebounds and five blocked shots, but he appeared to tire because the Nets played at such a fast pace. Allen can make things that much tougher on Embiid by attacking him on offense.
“I know he’s dealing with the knee injury,” Allen said. “We were playing really fast. You could see it. I think anybody would have got tired after that.
“It’s always tough when you play through pain. I wish he wasn’t in pain just for his well-being, but for him, we just need to attack him and take advantage of everything we have.”