The Sixers are now 1-1 without Joel Embiid and 1-0 without Ben Simmons.
Huge sample size, I know.
Still, did you expect 130 points and a 19 point win without Simmons in the lineup? I didn’t, but the Sixers pulled a Philadelphia Eagles last night, getting key contributions from the likes of T.J. McConnell and JJ Redick in a third-straight win.
It was Redick leading the way with 29 points on 10-18 shooting, going 8-12 from the three-point line. Embiid, fighting illness, added 18 and 14. The Sixers got balanced contribution across the board, and Brett Brown was asked post-game if he had just witnessed his team’s most collaborative performance of the year.
“When you look at 35 assists and you look at only 11 turnovers and five of those 11 came the first six minutes of the game, you’d have a chance to say that. I think that we’re learning how to play with each other. You had some different lineups on the floor tonight with Richaun [Holmes] and Amir [Johnson] and Jerryd [Bayless]coming in and we still found a way to navigate sort of our structure and stay organized. The development of our guys, I respect the work that they have put in, there are lots of people in that locker room that are getting better and are playing certainly better together as a team.”
They certainly are.
Mashing it up
McConnell went for 15 points, 7 rebounds, 13 assists, 3 steals and 1 block last night. He turned the ball over once and committed just two fouls.
Stylistically, he’s obviously not a 6’11” athletic freak who can get to any spot he wants off the dribble.
So he creates space in different ways, as described by JJ Redick:
“He was pushing in transition, but it was a little bit different than Ben. He can pretty much get to the rim every time he wants. T.J. plays at that sort of pace with the intention of drawing a second defender, or causing that kind of confusion. We’re just cutting and moving around his penetration. We call that a mash, when he dribbles underneath the basket. That’s just a way to create action for us. We had talked earlier this morning in shootaround, just little dribble-handoffs between T.J. and I in transition. I think my first three was on that play, and I thought we executed that well. Those are just some of the things he was doing. We just fed off of him tonight.”
Here’s that first bucket that Redick is talking about:
Simple, right? Just a dribble hand-off, but Orlando is getting back in defense. Terrence Ross is out of position and Evan Fournier is on the wrong guy. McConnell just hands it off to Redick, who has space between himself and Elfrid Payton.
As far as the “mash,” that’s typical T.J., which you see here:
He does this all the time. It’s just a cut underneath the basket to draw attention and “create confusion,” as Redick explained.
At the point where McConnell is under the rim, he has the attention of all five Orlando players. Jerryd Bayless and Dario Saric space out on the perimeter:
So it’s similar to what Ben Simmons does, but T.J. isn’t shooting on those sequences, not often at least. He made a couple of layups last night, but when he runs the baseline like that, his primary objective is to move the defense and let his teammates benefit from it.
Under the weather
Playing with a cold, Joel Embiid looked tired early.
He missed shootaround on Saturday morning and said he was having trouble breathing while also dealing with a headache.
But he didn’t want to skip out on the game because, he told reporters, he had missed two entire seasons already. He’s not going to miss out on court time if he doesn’t have do.
Brett Brown, speaking of Embiid’s sluggish start, drew comparisons to playing at altitude, explaining that the center just needed to find a second wind.
So after starting off with three turnovers, a foul, and two missed shots during his first shift, he came back in with 3:51 in the first quarter to hit his first shot and add his first assist.
In the second, he started off with this:
- defensive rebound
- made jump shot
- defensive rebound
- made 3-pointer
- made layup (and-1, missed free throw)
- defensive rebound
- made layup (and-1, made free throw)
- offensive rebound
- made jump shot
- layup blocked
In 4:12 he had 12 points and 4 rebounds, carrying the Sixers to a nine point lead. Good on Joel for fighting through it and contributing big time, especially with Simmons out of the lineup.
With McConnell starting, more bench minutes were available for Jerryd Bayless and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who finished with these lines:
Bayless: 14 points (5-11, 2-5 from three), 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover
TLC: 9 points (1-7, 1-4 from three), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 turnovers
Nice minutes from Bayless, who went for double-digit points for the first time since coming back from that wrist injury. And you saw the veteran smarts as well, especially on that play at the end of the third quarter where slowed the game down in an attempt to hold for the final shot.
As for TLC, he didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but I felt like he made better decisions last night. He got to the rim and drew multiple fouls, finishing 6/6 at the free-throw line. He had attempted just one foul shot in the previous four games.
The Sixers also had two bigs on the court a few times last night, which is something we might see more of going forward. Amir Johnson finished with a healthy 6 and 6 in 19 minutes while Richaun Holmes added 4 points and a board in 10 minutes. The Sixers bench went for 33 total in the win.
The Magic have lost 8 straight games.
If it gets to ten, Elfrid Payton has to cut his hair:
(Photo credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports)
Payton went for 22, 8, and 9 last night, so if the hair works for him, then okay.