As tall as Boban Marjanovic is, he had huge shoes to fill with the absence of All-Star center Joel Embiid from the Philadelphia 76ers lineup. The 7-foot-3 Serbian made sure that his team didn’t miss a beat as he played another remarkable game with 14 points, eight rebounds and one block in just 18 minutes of playing time. The result—a 131-115 beatdown of the upstart Brooklyn Nets in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series.
Marjanovic has played the hero’s role this postseason for the Sixers who might miss their starting center for a second straight game. The big man made all eight of his free throws and played well enough to keep the Nets from taking advantage of his slow feet. He was a plus-18 during his time on the court and had he avoided fouling out of the game with over seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, he would have contributed more.
The Nets failed to capitalize on their mismatches with Marjanovic, but that has more to do with the Serbian’s ability to knock down jumpers, capitalize on his height and heft for rebounds, and avoid getting exploited on defense than anything that Brooklyn failed to do.
Over the past three games of the series, Marjanovic is averaging 14.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 blocks a game and he’s doing it in only 17.3 minutes of floor time. Rather than be a liability for the Sixers, he is contributing to their championship playoff run by having a positive impact in every game in the postseason so far.
“I’m pretty tall, you know,” Marjanovic explained to reporters as if they needed him to state the obvious. “The effect is my size. Sometimes just to be there, my size helps me to protect the basket. We work on that, we prepare for that … we must stick to the plan.”
The plan is for Embiid to return to the lineup in Game 4 and continue his dominance in the playoffs the way that he did in the regular season. He’s an MVP candidate and surefire All-NBA Team member after a fantastic season where he ranked fifth in PER leaguewide.
But the Process is questionable for the next game and the best thing for the Sixers is to think of his long term health especially if this is going to be a long run all the way to the title. Besides, if the Nets find a way to neutralize Marjanovic’s impact, coach Brett Brown has Mike Scott on hand to stretch the floor with a smaller lineup.
They also have center Greg Monroe, who took over the center position in the starting lineup in Game 3, to help hold down the fort while Embiid is recovering from knee tendinitis. Though his 27.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.9 blocks per contest are difficult to replace, his teammates did a superb job of filling in for their franchise center by taking on his various responsibilities by committee.
He’s nowhere near making an Embiid-sized impact on the floor, but Marjanovic has made it known to everyone that his more celebrated counterpart shouldn’t worry too much about rushing in to return to playoff action.