The Sixers won their sixth game of the season, and fourth straight, 118-101.
That completes the back to back sweep of the Charlotte Hornets, a team the Sixers have not lost to since 2016.
Here are my five takeaways from last night’s game:
1. Doc Rivers
Brett Brown was a hated man. He was put in charge of the biggest tank job the NBA has ever seen, and the front office felt that when it was time to win, he deserved a chance to see it through.
However, he just wasn’t a good coach. The spirit coordinator failed to get our stars to reach their potential and failed to get our team to play hard for 48 minutes per night. Frequent blown leads were a staple in Brett Brown coached teams, no matter the personnel.
Head Coach Doc Rivers is a breath of fresh air. Now I’m not saying Rivers is Phil Jackson or anything, but he has this current team playing like a well-oiled machine. His training camp quote, “If we are up by 10, let’s win by 20. If we are up by 20, let’s win by 30,” clearly resonated with this team.
Through seven games, four have been blowouts (15+ point wins), compared to 10 all of last season. These new Sixers don’t seem to let up and it brings a sigh of relief to this fan base.
2. Tyrese Maxey
Last night was, by far, the best game of Tyrese Maxey’s short career. Not only did he post a career high 11 points, he looked a lot more comfortable running the show, finishing with 2 assists and numerous “hockey” assists.
After a few preseason games, it seemed as though Maxey was ready for a larger role during the regular season. However, he started off shaky, and it appeared as if the game was a little too fast for him.
He missed his first 5 attempts from 3, he often looked flat-footed defensively, and his floater wasn’t dropping like previous games.
“Joel told me the other day, if you keep passing up 3’s, you are going to have to deal with me. So I listened to the big man, that’s all I did,” said Maxey in response to his 3-point stroke.
Since the shaky, 0-5 start, Maxey has shot 3-5 from three (2-3 last night), attacks the rim at will, has been relentless defensively and looks much more comfortable running the team.
“I love it here in Philadelphia. I’m so blessed to be here.” We are blessed to have you too, Tyrese.
3. Flip the switch
Everyone has heard of this infamous switch that contenders claim to have. Worried about regular season losses? Worried that they look sluggish? Don’t worry, they’ll flip the switch when it matters.
Over the last few years, the Sixers claimed to have this switch as well, until the regular season losses turned into postseason losses. Early on in this season, it appears that switch has made its way to Philadelphia.
In the Sixers six wins, it seemed as though the games were going to go down to the wire (they did vs the Wizards and Raptors). But somewhere during the game, something clicked and the Sixers pulled off multiple, big runs to either take the lead or extend a lead.
Last night showed a glimpse of that switch. The Hornets started off slow, but got hot in a flash. They hit seven 3’s in the first quarter and a half to make it a 39-41 ball game. Over the next 4:16, the Sixers went on a 17-4 run, heading into halftime with a 15 point lead.
The switch was flipped. The game never got closer than nine points after that run, and the Sixers ran away with a 17-point win. But its games like this where Rivers and the Sixers show how good they can be when they decide to lock in.
4. Dwight Howard
From Amir Johnson, to Greg Monroe, to Boban Marjanovic, to Al Horford, the Sixers have struggled to find a backup big man that can play well enough to sustain leads when superstar, Joel Embiid, rests.
Finally, in 2020, the Sixers have found their guy in, future Hall of Famer, Dwight Howard.
You might look at the box score, see 6 points and 6 rebounds in 14 minutes per game, and think he isn’t doing anything special, but his presence alone changes the game for the bench unit.
When you think of Dwight Howard, you think of monster dunks, off of the pick and roll, and alley oops. After a screen, Howard’s strong rolls to the basket cause the entire opposition to gravitate to the rim, leaving wide open shooters on the perimeter. If they don’t help, it is a dunk, layup, or foul for Howard.
Now he’s far from the perennial all-star Dwight Howard of the late 2000’s/early 2010’s, but he is still valuable. Last night was his best game as a Sixer, finishing with 9 points and 13 rebounds, in 18 minutes off the bench.
5. Play of the game
I decided, from now on, to reserve my fifth takeaway for the play of the game.
Last night, that play was a beautiful assist from Ben Simmons to a sprinting Joel Embiid.
The Sixers next game will be tomorrow night, when they take on Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook, and the Washington Wizards, in a rematch from the season opener. #HereTheyCome