Easy Work – Observations from Sixers 118, Hornets 101

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Admittedly, the Sixers went on the back burner for a week or so while the Eagles were busy ending their season in rather hideous fashion.

As we put a bow on the Birds and move on to the much better local basketball squad, we find that the Sixers are now 6-1 and pretty much steamrolling the opponents placed in front of them. They haven’t played any truly elite teams yet, but they’re doing what good squads do, which is dispatching the lesser opposition in their path. The mark of a quality group is that they do not play down to their level of competition, and to the Sixers’ credit, they put the Hornets through the Lex Luger torture rack en route to another comfortable win on Monday night.

The game was more or less over when the Sixers ended the first half on a 25-7 run.

“I thought the end of the second quarter changed the game,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “We came out in the third and kind of put it away. One of the things I don’t think we’ve done well this year is close out quarters, and tonight we closed out the second and third in a great way. It allowed a lot of guys to get rest, which is great for us, especially going into this stretch of games that we have.”

At the risk of going overboard here, we’ll point out that the Sixers started 5-0 last year. But it’s clear that this team just fits soooooo much better, as they space the floor, generate myriad clean looks, and push the tempo up and down the floor. They’ve got guys who can dribble. They’re playing solid defense on a nightly basis and look like a more experienced version of the 53-win 2017 squad.

Tobias Harris, player of the week

Good on Tobias Harris for shaking off a subpar opening night to earn Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors.

He scored 24 points on 10-16 shooting Monday night, and damn does he look like a different player out there. He’s kind of drifted into that “unconscious” territory of the game, not to the point where he’s mid-90s Reggie Miller, but he’s ascended to that mental state where you don’t even think, you just act.

When you look at plays like these, the decision making is automatic:

Those early shot clock, catch and shoot three pointers are huge. If he’s taking and making those consistently, look out. And twice last night he just used his 6’9″ frame to go right over Bismack Biyombo in assertive fashion.

“Tobias, he’s not forcing it,” said Rivers. “It’s just coming to him. He’s taking what they’re giving him. He’s making quick decisions and we’ve just got to keep him in that mode.

“From the first game, when I went back and watched it, it was just missed shots that didn’t fall for me,” Harris added. “Going on, I think it was more of a change of pace in how we were playing. We understood from game one that we have to use each other and play with one another. I think, from that, now we’re starting to flow into the group we know we can be. That’s always been for me, in my career, a successful situation. I’m always a guy who, if the team is rolling and we’re playing for one another and making the extra pass, guys just seem to play better, and that’s me, too. Finding those spots and being in rhythm. I think, as a group, and I can speak for myself, we have a really good rhythm right now.”

Tyrese Maxey looks to be the real deal

They got a good one in Maxey. All thanks to Mike Muscala hitting a clutch three-pointer in a meaningless game.

In the last three games he’s played about 20 minutes per, scoring 10 points on average on 13-27 shooting. He just plays a very loose and very “free” game and doesn’t look like he has any of that trepidation or hesitancy that you might normally find in a rookie.

Plays like this really stand out:

That’s Malik Monk he’s turning over there. A 22-year-old fellow first round Kentucky draft pick.

“There’s this narrative out there that the reason he went down in the draft is because people didn’t think he could shoot,” Rivers said of Maxey. “I haven’t seen a lick of that. I think he’s an excellent shooter and he’ll just keep getting better. Once he’s ready and takes his shot, he’s good. He’s got great speed. He’s gonna be a terrific player and we’re very lucky he fell to us.”

Yeah, and when you take a look at the early season shot chart, it’s not bad at all:

0-3 from the corners, but 3-7 elsewhere beyond the arc. He’s shooting well around the rim and that floater is a really nice weapon, something he can build on from there. There’s plenty of room to grow, but so far, so good.

Mask up

Doc Rivers says he was fined $10,000 for not adhering to the NBA’s mask rules.

This comes as the league updates protocols as such:

“Obviously I haven’t done a good job because I got fined $10,000,” said Rivers with a laugh. “Honestly I thought it was the right fine, and the right thing to do. We all have to try to adhere to the rules. I have three people on the bench who have to remind me now, probably 20 times they had to remind me to put the mask back on. The players can’t hear me through the mask, so I’m taking it down to talk, and I forget to bring it back up. Maybe it’s an age thing, probably so. But listen, we have to adhere. Just because we have the vaccinations, it’s still not safe times, and we have to do it.”

Honestly, it’s tough. I know these guys are trying to communicate with their players, and it’s hard with the music blaring while your mouth is also muffled. But the rules are the rules, and the NBA has been more strict than other leagues.

One final thought

It’s really crazy how demonstrative the Sixers bench has been this year. Not just the second unit and beyond, but the starters standing up and really being active and engaged when they’re sitting down.

We’ve heard a number of players talk about the level of buy-in this season, and in particular Ben Simmons seems like he was disillusioned with Brett Brown and the former coaching staff last year. You can tell that there’s just a new energy and enthusiasm in the team, and it’s really overt on television and in person, down at the arena. Hopefully we get fans in the building before the playoffs, because this is a fun team to watch.

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