What a time to be back. What a game to watch. For the first time in several weeks, we were able to witness two fully healthy basketball teams. And to be fair, it wasn’t just any two basketball teams. It was the eastern conference, first seed, Sixers vs the western conference, first seed, Los Angeles Lakers.
The two juggernauts certainly did not disappoint as the Sixers defeated the Lakers 107-106, on a Tobias Harris game winner.
Here are my five takeaways from the big win:
1. The Big 3
Joel Embiid is currently averaging 27.7 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. Tobias Harris is averaging 20.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. Ben Simmons is averaging 13 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 8 assists. The ‘Big Three’ in Philly are starting to play like a self-proclaimed big three should. While the overall numbers aren’t eye-popping, the results are.
The Sixers are 10-0 when all five starters play. Tonight, the big three ended with 24-7-3, 28-6-4, and 17-11-10 from Harris, Embiid, and Simmons, respectively.
Despite a poor showing from Seth Curry and the bench, the dominance from the three max (or near max) players was enough to take down the powerhouse, known as the Lakers.
With these three clicking like they have been, the sky is the limit.
2. Joel Embiid’s big fall
Midway through the third quarter, Sixers star, Joel Embiid, rose up, for what would’ve been a monster slam over Lebron James. While Embiid was in the air, possibly to avoid being posterized, James pushed Embiid, leading to a hard fall, on his already injured back.
After rolling around in pain for a few minutes, Embiid stood up, walked it off, knocked down two free throws, and continued playing.
When questioned about the late game struggles, Embiid responded “It’s on me. I missed a couple of shots. I just didn’t have the legs. Not because I was tired, which I wasn’t. My back just didn’t allow me to dominate.”
While he seemed fine to continue playing, this is something to monitor going forward.
3. Seth Curry
Prior to contracting COVID-19, Seth Curry was shooting like a maxed out player in a video game. Every time the ball left his fingertips, it seemed like it was going in. Even upon returning, it seemed as though he picked up right where he left off.
However, as of late, it seems as though he’s struggling to get his legs back from the multi-week layoff. He’s averaging 4.5 points on 19% shooting overall and 14% from 3 over the last two games.
Like I’ve said in the past, Seth is one of the players in the NBA that I would never hit the panic button on in the midst of a slump. He is an all-world shooter, and I believe it’s just rust after an early season layoff.
Seth’s shooting is a big key to a deep run for the Sixers, let’s hope he gets out this slump soon.
22 points on 9/19 shooting, led by Shake Milton’s 9 points. That will not cut it vs the elite teams, which all have good-to-great benches. Luckily enough, the Lakers benched struggled, with 22 points of their own.
Doc Rivers has a lot of confidence in this bench, shown by his all bench lineups throughout the game. No one outside of, possibly, Milton and Tyrese Maxey, in the future, are starters at this level. So I get it, we shouldn’t expect great production every game, but there are times where the starters need a spark off the bench, or to hold a lead, and that should be expected from this group.
The inconsistency has caused Doc to increase starters minutes in certain games (39, 38, and 37 minutes for Simmons, Embiid, and Harris last night) which shouldn’t be needed for a regular season game in January.
It’s time for players to start solidifying their roles so that these experimental lineups and high starters’ minutes can cease to exist.
5. Play of the game
“THE $180 MILLION MAN!” “ALL-STAR TOBIAS HARRIS”
After a 14-point lead, in the 4th quarter, was cut to one, Lakers coach Frank Vogel, drew up a beautiful out-of-timeout play call, getting Anthony Davis a layup with 11.2 seconds left to play.
In response, Doc Rivers drew up a play to get Alex Caruso on Tobias Harris, with room to operate. The rest is history.
Despite limited change in raw numbers, Tobias Harris has grown as a scorer now that he’s back under Doc Rivers. Harris does not make that shot last year, he probably doesn’t even take it. The confidence – and efficiency – he is displaying this season is what we expected from him and that contract. He should be on his way to the all-star game bid.
The Sixers will head to Minnesota, on Friday, for a meeting against, rookie sensation, Anthony Edwards, and the Timberwolves. See you then! #HereTheyCome