The 76ers had a pretty good week overall. The end of the week was rough as the Sixers dropped one to the road to the Nets. Alas, Joel Embiid was out with a respiratory illness, so it’s really not a loss anyone needs to lose any sleep over. The Sixers are rolling right along. They aren’t really blowing teams out of the water, with the exception of Cleveland, but they’re playing well.
As each game passes, the chemistry seems to improve with this roster and especially with the starting five. Ben Simmons has been aggressive lately and his movement offensively and defensively has been encouraging, given the concern with spacing. It’s time to take a look at the previous week and explore how the games transpired and what it means going forward.
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Nuggets vs 76ers Dec 10
The Sixers hosted a solid team from the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets. Following a hip check from Ben Simmons, Jamal Murray exited the game in the first quarter with a “trunk” injury. I have no idea what that is, but the 76ers took advantage of the Nuggets after the loss of their leading scorer. The Sixers, following a slow start, kicked into gear and took control of the game immediately after the Murray injury.
Matisse Thybulle again flashed a lot of promise both defensively and offensively, playing 26 minutes and posting a 13/5/1 line. The Sixers handled the game very economically, taking threes leisurely and dominating the boards at a +11 differential. Despite the -2% shooting disparity, the Sixers managed five more made threes in the game. Despite once again losing the turnover differential (-2), the Sixers were able to hang on down the stretch and ice the game on free throws.
The most notable part of the performance was the criticism Joel Embiid received afterwards. In the postgame, both Shaq and Charles Barkley criticized Embiid for settling as a good player instead of taking over games, which he is clearly talented enough to do. Though I’m sure he didn’t want to hear it, Embiid probably needed to hear it. Despite the +11 differential in rebounds, the Sixers were outscored in the paint (48-38).
There does seem to be a lack of tenacity on defense at times with Philly as many of us who watch games often feel like the Sixers aim to just do enough to get the win, instead of trying to shut down opposing teams or blow them out. Like it or not, Embiid took the criticism well and turned it into a booming performance against the Celtics just two days later.
Celtics vs 76ers Dec 12
Joel Embiid took the criticism following Tuesday’s game and turned it into a monster performance against the Celtics. Embiid dominated the floor, posting 38 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists. For a good portion of the game, the Celtics had the lead and seemed to be in control. Kemba Walker got out to a red-hot start, while Embiid drifted away from focus. As the game wore on, the Sixers made the most of their possessions. It seemed to be the rhythm of the second half, actually.
The Sixers controlled the boards, took higher quality shots, and made a higher percentage of shots. Down the stretch, it was clutch shooting by the Celtics that kept them in the game. The Sixers, led by a big fourth-quarter push by Embiid, were able to hold the lead and a late block by Embiid sealed the road victory. The Sixers just looked like the stronger team from the second quarter on.
This game was an ideal Sixers performance, minus the turnovers, of course. The Sixers were -5 on turnover differential, +3 in three-pointers made, +4% in field goal percentage, and +12 in rebounds. I’ve been saying it all season for the Sixers in regards to rebounds and turnovers. If the team can continue to limit turnovers and dominate the boards, it’s going to take a ridiculous swing in shooting percentage for the Sixers to lose games.
I think this team, given their consistent rebounding prowess, is built well for the playoffs. Over the course of a seven-game series, these rebounding advantages are going to end up being the difference.
Pelicans vs 76ers Dec 13
Given the fact the Pelicans are still without the overall #1 draft pick on their active roster, the Pelicans put up a strong fight on the back end of the Sixers back-to-back schedule. Though the Sixers didn’t exactly dominate this game on the boards (+2 rebounding advantage), they drew even on turnovers (9) and won the battle of the points in the paint (56-46). It was a Tobias Harris night as Harris went 12-20 from the field, while Ben Simmons was an efficient 9-15.
It was honestly a bit of a surprisingly close game. After the Sixers hot start, they cooled significantly, shooting just 49% on the night and shooting a very bland 35% on three-point attempts. The numbers weren’t awful, but it was good to see the Sixers not play their best and still manage a victory. Following the Victory, the Sixers are now the only team in the NBA who are undefeated at home this season (14-0).
Nets vs 76ers Dec 15
The Sixers played Sunday’s game without the aid of Embiid. It didn’t go well from the tip and the Sixers were outscored in every quarter of the game. The Sixers Achilles’ heel in this game was their inability to connect from deep. They managed just 5 made threes on 26 attempts (19%). Actually, their Achilles heel was pretty much everything.
The Sixers were slaughtered on the boards by the Nets (51-38). Given the Nets key rebounders, Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan, it wasn’t shocking the 76ers lost the rebounding battle with Embiid out. Both teams committed 16 turnovers, but the Nets were simply more efficient, more physical, and played a complete game.