Winning Comfortably – Observations from Sixers 125, Heat 108

Photo Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers easily dispatched a Miami Heat team that was missing Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Meyers Leonard, Avery Bradley, Kendrick Nunn, KZ Okpala, Moe Harkless, and Udonis Haslem.

That’s it. That’s the entire intro.

Reinforcements arrive

Big boost for the Sixers, who enjoyed the return of Tobias Harris, Shake Milton, and Matisse Thybulle after the trio had to miss a handful of games due to COVID-19 protocol.

They didn’t skip a beat, combining for 57 points on the evening. Milton’s 31 was a game high while Harris shot 7-13 from the floor in his 30-minute reintroduction to the starting lineup.

After the win, Tobias was asked how he was staying in shape during quarantine, and it sounds like he was on the “honey do” regimen:

“I’m moving boxes open down the stairs in my house, running errands all day and night, cleaning up. And just being truly the errand boy around my house has kept me in some great shape. I was lifting a lot of these heavy boxes and opening them and bringing the garbage out, and that’s really it right there. I was very happy to be out of the house in seven days. That’s all I can say there.”

That’s great news for the rest of us schlubs. All we do is run errands, clean up after our kids, and take the trash out. If Tobias is going out and scoring 18 after completing his wife’s to-do list, you and I are gonna look like Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf in our next game.

Shake, meantime, scored the most points of any bench player this entire season. In the entire NBA. He had 19 in the first half alone and really feasted on a depleted Miami squad, scoring in a variety of ways and picking out the right pass more often than not. That silky baseline step back jumper was a thing of beauty, and he’s really developed a feel for the game when he gets into the paint or uses ball screens. He’s sensing contact, drawing fouls, and reading the defense at a level that we haven’t seem from him prior.

“They were great, all of them,” said Doc Rivers of his returning trio. “Tobias just giving us a lift at the four, changing Miami’s lineup and how they wanted to defend us. Shake was phenomenal tonight and Matisse was incredible defensively. He made so many plays, and that’s the Matisse we need every night. I really liked how he played with his energy. I don’t care about his scoring; that will come. He’s got to be a defensive difference (maker). And Ben defensively, I know he had the points, assists, and rebounds, but his defense changed the game. He put pressure on the ball, which extended Miami’s offense. I just loved everybody’s performance.”

Ben Simmons on the non-trade

10 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists for Simmons, who started this game somewhat slow and only attempted a handful of field goals in the first half. It looked like it was going to be another timid performance from him, but he rounded it out nicely to claim his 30th career triple-double.

In that sense, he responded well enough after a reported near-trade that would have sent him to Houston as part of a James Harden deal.

He talked about the transaction that never was:

“This is a business, things like that happen. The only thing I can control is how I approach my workouts, the games and my day-to-day things. I’m just trying to be professional and do the right thing and help my team get wins.”

“I come in here and work every day. My job is to get better and get wins. All the other stuff I can’t control. As I said before, all I can control is how I come in with my mindset, with practices, and on the floor. And I had a great time tonight. I’m blessed, I get to play the game I love every day at the highest level in the world. So there’s far worse things going on in the world. I’m in a blessed position. If you told me I would never play the game again, that’d be a different story.”

That’s a good quote from Ben.

I’m not sure if you notice this from home, or if you care, but Ben has been different with the media this season. Maybe it’s the detached nature of the Zoom calls, but he feels more comfortable and his answers are longer and a bit more thought-out. Not that it really matters what he says to us dopes, but when somebody improves as a communicator it can alter a fan and media perception that sometimes results in tangible off-court benefits. It’s easy for sports fans to attach themselves to guys who seem to give a shit, and when you give answers like the one above, they resonate.

Other notes:

  • On depth, Rivers says it’s a really good problem he has. Throw Isaiah Joe into the mix (4-8 from three last night), and now you’re looking at a team that can pretty much roll 11-12 guys on a nightly basis.
  • I feel like Dwight Howard is the most whistled guy in the NBA.
  • Joel Embiid got a deserved easy night after willing the Sixers to an overtime victory on Tuesday. He scored nine points on eight shots and they got him out of the game with just 24 minutes logged.
  • Rivers had zero problem with how Simmons handled Miami’s sag and foul line wall. When asked about it, he noted that his team scored 125 points. Of course, we all know it will be a storyline in the playoffs against a good team, when the stakes are higher. But in this case, the Sixers did a better job of getting into the paint, collapsing the defense, and then opening up space on the perimeter.
  • Five turnovers for Simmons in this game. His TO numbers are way up this year and he’s logging a career-high 4.3 turnovers per 36 minutes. He needs to clean that up.
  • These two games were pretty much a joke, but if we’re being honest, playing a short-handed Miami twice in a row makes up for the crap they had to deal with against Denver and Atlanta. To come out of that stretch with two wins and two losses, considering the COVID nonsense the league is trying to navigate right now? It has to be considered a success.
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