The Sixers beat a short-handed Magic team at home on Monday night by a final score of 101-96. A win is a win, but Doc Rivers’ team didn’t come close to covering a generous, double-digit spread despite having the de facto starting lineup (minus Ben Simmons) back on the floor together.
It was rebounding and free throw shooting that made the difference down the stretch. With the game tied at 93 and 50 seconds on the clock, Joel Embiid grabbed a loose ball off a Tobias Harris miss, was fouled, and hit both free throws. On the ensuing Orlando possession, the Sixers blew their pick and roll defense, but Franz Wagner missed a wide-open three pointer and Tyrese Maxey was fouled upon grabbing the defensive board.
“It was a win not inspired,” said Rivers after the game. “I thought the first six minutes we played pretty much right away with a lot of energy, and then right after that I just think we didn’t play very well. I thought (Andre Drummond) basically changed the game with his offensive rebounding and his effort. But other than that I’ll take any win. I rather win these than lose these, and so you’ll take them and keep pushing on.”
The Sixers also had a clunky answer to Orlando’s zone, with Rivers noting that there was “no movement, no downhill attacks” from his team.
“I thought when they first presented it in the third quarter it kinda stunned us a little bit,” Harris added. “We missed a couple of shots that could’ve fell and then we passed up a couple of ones and then it kinda allowed the team to get confident. So it’s something we just have to get better at. We’ve got to figure out some driving lanes. It was kinda tough cause they do have shot-blockers you know? Mo Bamba was getting a bunch of blocks and what not, so he did protect the rim at the middle of the zone so we just gotta, when teams present that, it’s like one of those things you just gotta make shots and they’ll get out of it and you know ultimately the reason why the zone was also successful is because they were scoring on the other end. They were able to set up in the zone every time whereas if we were able to get some extra stops we would’ve been able to push and not let them set up in that zone.”
The Sixers improved to 11-10 and here are 15 more bullets about the game and current Sixer trends:
- Seth Curry scored 24 points on 10-13 shooting. Embiid and Harris were a combined 12-36 from the floor.
- The Sixers had 55 rebounds in this game and logged 18 in the first quarter, which was a single-quarter season high.
- After opening the season with the NBA’s best FG%, the Sixers have fallen down to 12th (45.9%)
- They are still a top team three point shooting team, but the same disparity we saw last year is beginning to creep in. They shoot the 9th best percentage in the league (36.0), but take the 24th most threes (32.5 per game).
- Furkan Korkmaz can’t hit anything right now. He’s 32% from three and 37% from the floor, which are his lowest numbers dating back to his rookie season.
- Tobias Harris is also 32% from three at this point. He shot 39% last season.
- They’re still doing a really good job of protecting the basketball. 12.7 turnovers per game is 3rd best in the NBA and one of the lowest numbers they’ve posted at any point during the last decade.
- Some games, Andre Drummond looks like the best backup center this team has ever had. Other times, he’s trying to throw Lebron-esque passes in traffic. Less is more with Drummond. When he sticks to his bread and butter, he’s very good.
- Tyrese Maxey seems a little deferential at times with Embiid now back in the fold. He should keep driving to the rack and playing in a downhill fashion, because that opens up the game and opens up the floor.
- The advanced analytics don’t favor Maxey’s defensive contribution. He’s doing incredibly well on the offensive end, but various formulas have him as a net negative on the other side of the floor. This was always to be expected with Ben Simmons holding out.
- At this point, Danny Green in the starting lineup makes the most sense. I know there’s chatter about bringing him off the bench, but last year’s top unit was one of the best in the NBA, and if you can keep four of those five guys together, then you try to do it. If/when they trade Simmons, then you make the determination from there.
- Georges Niang came down to Earth, as expected. He wasn’t going to shoot 46% from three all season, and is now around the 36% mark.
- Free throw shooting is still really important for this team. They’re tied for the second best mark in the NBA (81.7%) and shoot the 15th-most FTs.
- The Sixers are off on another road trip now. Four games in Boston, Atlanta, then Charlotte 2x before coming back home to play the Jazz and Warriors, who are top three Western Conference teams. It’s very conceivable they fall below .500 in December.
- Going back to the weekend Minnesota loss, Doc Rivers left a lot to be desired. Yeah, the players have to execute, but you can’t just throw the ball to Joel Embiid on the wing and call that a closing strategy. First game back from COVID, he plays a ton of minutes and is asked to iso in double overtime? Really?