2 words: Deep Breath. The Sixers added one to the win column as they outlasted the Spurs by a score of 132-130. However, one of the many concerns coming into the game proved very relevant and it took a gutsy game-winning 3-pointer from Shake Milton to put closure on the night. The Sixers were better than they were against Indiana, but still far from the level that one would have hoped to see out of the gate.
After an extremely frustrating debut, Shake showed the world why he has been so highly regarded. He bounced back with a 16 point performance. Shake looked much more comfortable today and found his place in the offense early on. He knocked down a pair of 3’s in the game, one of them coming with the game on the line. It showed some real guts to be able to bounce back in the way that he did while under the most pressure of his career. Staying out of foul trouble was key and he played 26 minutes in this matchup. The promising signs point towards come continued development, which is something fans would love to see.
JRich actually led the team in minutes in this game. He also looked much more comfortable in his role and poured in 19 points. Richardson seems to be priding himself on the defensive side of his game lately. His willingness to fight through screens and prevent passes off the ball may not show up in the box score but does not go unnoticed. Josh also was not shy about shooting the ball and tossed up 8 total 3 point attempts in the game. This was also a statement made as Josh also did not play well in the opening game.
Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid once again performed like a superstar and it was especially noteworthy to watch how confident he looked distributing from the post. Tobias put up 25 points and remained the most consistent part of the team’s offense. If this duo can continue to produce at this rate it will at the least keep the Sixers in every game they play. It is an extremely tough task for any team to match up against Embiid at the level he is at right now. Tobias also has shown improvements on the defensive end and the Tobias that has shown up in the bubble has been more than worth the contract that he is often unfairly judged for.
Everything was looking up for Ben for his potential play in the return but it has not quite come together. Simmons battled with foul trouble and was forced to take a seat early as he fouled out with 2 minutes and 12 seconds left. In 25 minutes Ben had just 8 points, 5 assists, and 1 rebound and once again did not seem to be completely locked in. The dreams of him “shooting it in Orlando” are not looking likely as he has not even considered a 3-pointer since the Grizzlies scrimmage when he shot it twice. Simmons needs to “flip the switch” more often and play to the star level that he is capable of.
Foul trouble was once again a problem as Simmons only played 25 minutes in the game. This resulted in Al Horford getting more time that would have been expected as he played the second-highest minutes on the team. Raul Neto still managed to find minutes and was up and down. Matisse and Furkan both got some more time in this game and made an impact on the court. Worst of all Alec Burks still hasn’t missed a 3- pointer in Orlando but was once again overlooked from Brett Brown. The main criticism of Burks is excessive turnovers, but he had 0 in his 10 minutes in this game. Regardless it is clear Brown does not trust Burks, but the team certainly could use his shooting on the court.
Win when you’re supposed to win
The Sixers still are lacking the ability to produce dominant wins. They have continuously proved to be unable to put games out of reach when they are the superior talent. This Spurs team is a far cry from the Tim Duncan and Tony Parker team that comes to mind. These Spurs sit at 10th in the West with a record of 29-37, yet Demar DeRozan and Rudy Gay looked like the new age Splash Brothers and combined for 54 tonight. The Sixers were up 99-87 going into the fourth quarter and allowed a porous 43 points in that quarter alone. This is now back-to-back games in which the 4th quarter was the team’s worst defensive quarter and this problem needs to be addressed immediately.
The Sixers have still failed to play up to their full potential, yet have stayed in both games which is promising. It was also a positive sign to see them manage to win a close game despite that it should have been wrapped up earlier. Hands will stay hovering above the panic button, but the win should have prevented any major meltdowns at this point. That 3-pointer from Shake has saved Brett Brown from nonstop scrutiny from all of the Philadelphia and even National media. The Sixers must continue to build on this effort and clean up the defensive issues as the playoffs continue to grow closer.
Mandatory Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports