Sometimes life gives you no Kyrie Irving, or no Kawhi Leonard, or no Giannis Antetokounmpo.
And when that happens you just go ahead and beat undermanned teams, improving to 22-20 and the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference with a 7th win in eight games.
It was a low-key critical game in the playoff race between two teams that will probably be in that six to nine range for rest of January and into April. The sore knee bothering the Greek Freak, combined with a “personal” absence for reigning rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon took some of the shine off this game, but the Sixers got the job done at home while navigating their usual third quarter scare.
Brett Brown on the takeaways from the win:
“I think it’s a real snapshot as to who we are. You have some solid periods where you guard and don’t turn it over, then you blink and you have 11 turnovers in the third period and then you regroup and hold them to 14 points in the fourth period. We had a lead, they got it back to two, we ballooned out. That’s this group, and if any of us are trying to make it immediately more than it is that’s just not the reality of this group we have. They’re young, they’re kind of wild, we’re trying to tame them as much as we can. But it’s also part of the passion and the thing that makes them good and so the takeaways are the snapshot of how erratic and fun and sometimes good, sometimes painful this young team is.”
The Sixers only turned the ball over three times in the first half, building a six point lead as Milwaukee shot 50% from three-point range. They allowed the Bucks to get within two points in the 4th quarter, then went on a 13-0 run to rebuild the lead and close it out.
Post game, Joel Embiid’s social media game was on point, poking fun at Bucks owner Wes Edens, who famously jabbed the Sixers’ rebuilding efforts last June, claiming that he’d rather talk about the “results” than the “process.”
— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) January 21, 2018
Edens was in attendance last night, so he got to see the results first-hand.
1) The French touch
With JJ Redick and Jerryd Bayless unavailable last night, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot got a rare start on the wing.
He acquitted himself well, finishing with 16 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists in 30 minutes of action.
Most importantly, he was 3-3 in the 4th quarter, hitting the monster three pointer that extended the lead to 87-82, then banging in another three and adding two assists during the 13-0 run.
This all took place after he was absolutely undressed by Sean Kilpatrick and put on his rear end in the second quarter, a play that would have shook other players. But TLC responded to that with a strong drive to rim and a converted pair of free throws.
The performance wasn’t much dissimilar from how Dario Saric looked in October, with a struggle to find rhythm off the bench. Then, when Dario was put into the starting lineup, he started to find that groove and form.
Brown touched on that:
“I just think that he’s one of these players that continues to work, I mean he’s there on the bench and really hasn’t had that much opportunity. In Boston I yanked him quick, I think he was down and I didn’t really go back to him and that’s the life of a young player. It’s hard to find a rhythm and it’s always the holy grail of any player, let alone a young player to find NBA minutes and find consistent NBA minutes and you really then get in a rotation. That’s the easiest way to show that ‘this is who I am’ and he hasn’t had that, yet he still remains positive. He still works and tonight with the demise of JJ and Jerryd Bayless here he is and the kid responded. He attacked the rim, he made threes. He is one of our best athletes on the team and he’s fearless. I just think from a human standpoint to see him get rewarded after him staying positive and with the team that’s a feel good story tonight.”
Credit where it’s due. I think TLC has really struggled this season and looked like a G-League player at times, but he played a really nice game last night and contributed when the Sixers needed him most.
2) Rock Covington
Shades of early season Roco last night with 13 points on 5-8 shooting at a 50% clip from downtown (3 for 6). He added four steals, five rebounds, three assists, one block, and stayed out of foul trouble.
If you’re one of those people who cares about plus/minus (I don’t), he finished with a game high +28.
But the eye test backs it up, with plays like this one:
And this one:
Put that second clip on your video reel and teach to every kid in America. Move your feet, son.
3) Creating off the dribble
We talk a lot about the makeup of this team, how the wings are catch and shoot guys who really can’t do much off the dribble.
Ironically, then, Justin Anderson’s only points of the game were scored off the dribble, with a really nice heads-up push to the rack and nasty flush:
Where did that come from?
Covington also had a nice look in the 4th quarter:
I’ve now showed you three clips where three different Sixers have taken Matthew Dellavedova off the dribble. Maybe it says more about Delly’s overplay more than anything, but, still, small things to build on here. This is Markelle Fultz territory for whenever he returns to the floor.
4) James Young
A Sixer debut for the ex-Celtic due to the Redick/Bayless issues.
His first action was a spot-up corner three that looked hella confident. He got the ball on the next play with a strong cut to the basket off a Joel double team, but couldn’t hit the off-balance layup.
He tried another quick three later in the game that didn’t fall and then took a feed from T.J. McConnell on a fast break to earn a trip to line, where he hit 1 of 2 free throws.
Four points in eight minutes for Young, who I thought looked assertive, if nothing else. That’s a compliment.