The Sixers played their first game of meaningful basketball in almost five months Saturday night against the Indiana Pacers. Many went into this game thinking the Sixers had it in the bag. After all, the Pacers were missing All-Star big Domantas Sabonis, free-agent acquisition Malcolm Brogdon, and star Victor Oladipo has yet to fully recover from a ruptured quad.
The Sixers seemed overconfident in this fact and somehow forgot that the Pacers’ leading scorer was still playing. TJ Warren has had a bit of an inconsistent career but his greatest strength has always been his ability to score, though no one thought he would score 53…
The Sixers had their own strong performances though led by non-other than Joel Embiid.
Joel Embiid: 41 points, 21 rebounds
TJ Warren: 53 points, 9/12 from three
Tobias Harris: 30 points, 8 rebounds
1. Joel Embiid is the Sixers’ Number One Option
As if it was any surprise, Joel Embiid showed that he is the unquestioned first-option on this team. Embiid finished the game with 41 points, 21 rebounds, and three blocks and was the clear difference-maker for the Sixers. It was obvious every time he left the court that the Sixers were in trouble both offensively and defensively.
Embiid’s impact in this game is just the latest in a long list of reasons why the offense should be run through him with Harris, Simmons, and the rest of the roster in support roles.
Embiid spoke during the hiatus about a change in his mentality and he seemed to show it against the Pacers.
2. Tobias Harris Should be Protected at All Costs
Okay, maybe not at all costs, but the Sixers’ expensive Forward has proven to be invaluable both on and off the court as of late. From his contributions serving the community to his role demanding equality of life to the 30 points he dropped last night, Harris is a much-needed leader on this team.
When his jump shot is falling, Harris looks right at home next to Embiid and Simmons. That should be his focus, supporting those two stars by just shooting the lights out. Over the past two games, he’s shot well which is an encouraging sign. We may be looking at the Tobias Harris of old, though it’s not the first time it looked that way.
While Harris has gotten a lot of flak for the contract that he signed this offseason if he continues to play and more importantly lead, as he has recently, that will eventually go away.
3. Brett Brown’s Questionable Decision Making
Brett Brown has made plenty of questionable decisions while coaching the Philadelphia 76ers, and last night was no different. Brown played Raul Neto a whopping 20 minutes, in which he amassed an impressive 2 points, three assists, and two rebounds *queue eye-role*. You can point to Shake Milton’s struggles as partly responsible but there were other better solutions.
Milton struggled defensively and was in foul trouble early on so naturally, Brown turned to his back-up Point Guard who is Neto right? Wrong. While Neto may be the only other pure Point Guard on the roster, the wise choice would have been giving more minutes to Alec Burks. In his 12 minutes, he scored nine points while shooting a perfect three-for-three from deep. Burks has shown that he can run the point but even if Brown was hesitant, he could have used Simmons as the lead Guard (which he did anyway) and used Burks as a catch and shoot specialist.
Or if not Burks, what about Matisse Thybulle who also only played 12 minutes? The Sixers needed some extra help to slow down TJ Warren and while Thybulle doesn’t possess the desired size against Warren, his instincts would have been invaluable defending him on the perimeter. After all, Thybulle has earned more playing time.
Brett Brown cannot allow Neto to play this much, especially while there are better options on the bench. Much of the blame for this loss should be shouldered by the Head Coach.
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