Coming off a loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Sixers were desperate for a win. The team had fallen to sixth place in the Eastern Conference and were facing the division rival Brooklyn Nets. Desperate in their own sense, the Nets cling to eighth place in the East and are 3-7 in their last ten games.
With Joel Embiid still out Coach Brown tried something new in the starting lineup. Benching the struggling Mike Scott, Brown inserted rookie sensation Matisse Thybulle. This move was the right one for a couple of reasons: Thybulle is a much better shooter and defender than Scott, also, starting Thybulle allows Tobias Harris to return to his natural position of Power Forward.
It may not seem important in a league that is pushing closer and closer to position-less basketball, but it clearly had a positive effect. This brings us to our player of the game.
Player of the Game: Tobias Harris
Tobias Harris, clearly comfortable playing Power Forward, was electric this game. Scoring 34 points in 35 minutes, Harris put the offense on his back and carried the team to victory. Harris also pulled down ten rebounds for his third straight double-double.
Possibly most impressive was the efficiency that Harris showed. Harris shot 14/20 from the field for an eye-popping 70%. Harris added to his impressive efficiency by shooting 4-6 from deep. He seems to have turned a corner as a shooter and is becoming the player we expected when the team traded for him at last year’s trade deadline. Since December 1st, Harris has shot an excellent 40% from three, showing that he truly is one of the premier shooters in this league.
Fourth Quarter Push
The Sixers played fine over the first three quarters. Yes the team could have defender better and yes they once again proved they can’t guard Spencer Dinwiddie, but offensively they were solid. The fourth quarter is really where everything clicked. The Sixers were able to rally in tremendous fashion as they dominated offensively and defensively in the quarter.
The Sixers saw a fourth-quarter spark off the bench as Furkan Korkmaz scored nine in the quarter alone. The scoring load was carried on by Tobias Harris who closed out the game scoring 11 points in the quarter. When it was all said and done, the Sixers outscored the Nets 31-16 in the fourth quarter.
The Sixers played a solid game tonight. The game should not have been as close as it was during the first three quarters but that’s what the fourth quarter is for. Brett Brown made a brilliant (albeit obvious) decision to move Harris back to Power Forward, it clearly made a difference and gave him the ability to take advantage of mismatches.
The only questionable decision was not giving Trey Burke a single minute of action. Burke holds the highest 3-point shooting percentage of any Sixers player including Korkmaz, Neto, and Thybulle. For some reason that I cannot explain Brett Brown seems to have a dislike of Trey Burke or at least his perceived fit in what Coach Brown calls an “offense”. It doesn’t make much sense for a poor shooting team to bench its best shooter.
Now sitting sixth in the East near the midway point of the season, the 76ers have seen their conference-title odds fade according to MTS. The team has struggled since mid-December, sinking from a season-best +170 to win the Eastern Conference to roughly +375 after Saturday’s blowout loss at Dallas. They can hardly buy a win on the road and have to make up 2.5 games on both the Celtics and Heat to even get the #2 seed in the playoffs. It’s far-fetched to think this team will win at least two series without home-court advantage
The Sixers will stay in Philly for the next game which will be against the Chicago Bulls Friday night January 15th. The Bulls are far from a top team but that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous. The Sixers will need to make sure to bring their A-game as they need all the wins they can get.
Tip-off is at 7:00 and will be nationally televised on ESPN, if you prefer the local coverage you can watch on NBC Sports Philadelphia. If you can’t watch the game or you just love the way Tom McGinnis describes the game you can also listen live at 97.5 FM the Fanatic.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports