Stumbling Across the Finish Line – Observations from Sixers 118, Rockets 113

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Imagine if Brett Brown was coaching that game. Blowing a 29-point lead? Social media would have imploded and left a dust cloud larger than Veterans Stadium and Trump Plaza combined.

Good thing the Sixers lit the building on fire in the first half, because they stumbled across the finish line on Wednesday night. They turned the ball over, played uninspired offense, and throttled down from 5th gear to neutral at halftime, getting out-scored 70 to 49 the rest of the way.

Still, they won the game. Hooray! They ended their three-game skid and did it without Ben Simmons and Shake Milton, and don’t overlook the difficulty of coming off a west coast road trip and getting back to normal. It’s not easy to bounce around time zones and then return to your home floor and play decent basketball.

“We just got sloppy,” Doc Rivers said post game. “It happens. We had a big lead and probably didn’t have a lot left in the tank. I thought Tobias (Harris), rebounding-wise – I know we look at his points – but the way he rebounded the ball, we needed that. I thought our zone threw them off. In the second half they figured it out and started making shots, but I thought our offense, the turnovers and stuff, was the only reason this became a game. But I’ll take the win, for sure.”

The last time the Sixers played at home against a depleted opponent, without Simmons, the Blazers ran them off the floor. But this time Rivers’ team used a barrage of early three pointers to bury Houston before ignition could even begin. The proverbial rocket was stuck on the landing pad at Johnson Space Center and the technicians had to come out at halftime and tweak a few thinks to get the spacecraft going.

“We really had some unforced turnovers that you don’t like,” Rivers added. “You get a lead, and the one thing about Houston and teams like them, is that they’re going to keep throwing the ball at the rim. If you turn the ball over you’re going to allow them back into the game. I didn’t think it was the pressure, it was more about us, and we had a lot of self-inflicted wounds.”

Turnover city USA

We haven’t talked about it much this year, but the Sixers are currently the NBA’s third-worst turnover team, with 15.8 per game. You’d think that number would have improved under Doc, since Brett Brown notoriously did not care about coughing the ball up, but the Sixers have not finished worse than 16 turnovers per game since the 2017-2018 season. They actually got that number down in Brett’s two final seasons.

The thing here is that the Sixers are also 28th in the league in conceding points off turnovers, at 19.5 per game. Luckily they’ve been able to make up for it elsewhere, with rebounding and half-court defense and decent enough shooting, because in six games where the Sixers have given it up more than 18 times, they’re 3-3.

Something to monitor, the turnovers. This was an area where both Simmons and Joel Embiid improved individually last season, so you’d like to see that trend continue towards the second half of the year.

Joel’s back

Joel Embiid had back issues throughout this game, trying to loosen up the tightness that’s been affecting him.

Afterward, he said this:

“It was pretty tight, but I just wanted to make sure we got the win. That’s all that matters.”

“I wanted to give it a shot for five more minutes (coming out of halftime). Obviously I had to adjust to it, but that first half, the whole game it was pretty tight, but I’ll be fine.”

It seems like business as usual with Embiid. Some days he’s gonna be good. Some days he’s not. When you’re a seven footer playing pro basketball, it is what it is. We have learned to live with Embiid’s status fluctuations and it’s now part of our life, whether we like it or not.

“Jesus Christ, Jackson”

Moment of the year right here.

Here’s rookie reporter Jackson Frank asking Doc a question while laying in bed:

Great laugh from Doc. To his credit, he answered the question after delivering that ribbing. Maybe other coaches would have refused, or found this unprofessional, or whatever. But it was a good laugh out loud moment.

No foul

Some plays shouldn’t have to be challenged, but this one was:

Successfully challenged and overturned. Doc isn’t a coach who challenges frequently, but this was a no-brainer.

Other notes

  • The Isaiah Joe minutes weren’t great, but neither were the Furkan Korkmaz or Mike Scott minutes. You weren’t getting anything previously from your bench, so no issues with rolling the rookie out there in Shake’s absence to see if he can give you something.
  • Excellent Harris game. 24 points on 8-17 shooting, 7-8 from the foul line, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, one steal, and two blocks. That’s another All-Star statline for him.
  • Embiid still poured in 31 points with the tight back. 11 rebounds and 9 assists as well, showing a bit of playmaker.
  • Seth Curry and Danny Green: 7-11 from three. They need at least one of those guys to hit shots on a nightly basis, and both showed up last night.
  • Four turnovers and four fouls for Dwight Howard.
  • I like Matisse Thybulle in the starting lineup. There’s no burden on him to do anything other than defend and shoot open threes. It’s pretty much the same role Robert Covington held in Philly.
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