In a year that continues to get weirder and weirder, the Sixers prepared for a shorthanded matchup with the Celtics. With 8 players across both teams in Covid Health and Safety protocols, the game was destined to provide some additional opportunity for the available bodies. Even a fire alarm going off in the arena prior to the game could not stop it from being played.
Regardless, the show must go on, and the Sixers laced it up with the available guys they had. It was clear from the jump that the Sixers showed up to compete and this high level of effort kept the Sixers in the game. The game remained close throughout with neither team leading by more than 9, and that was all Joel Embiid needed to drive it home.
First Half Thoughts:
With the team clearly shorthanded, there was much more responsibility thrown on the regular starters. Despite Joel Embiid and Danny Green being listed as questionable until shortly before the game, both were able to suit up and play their typical role. Tyrese Maxey missed his second-straight game with a quad contusion which left the Sixers slim at the guard position. Doc Rivers elected to roll out a starting lineup of Seth Curry, Matisse Thybulle, Danny Green, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid which gave the Sixers a size advantage.
Embiid picked up two quick fouls in the first few minutes of the game but managed to play smart basketball and avoid foul trouble. He ended with 17 points in the half and seemed to take some additional pride in scoring over Enes Freedom. Tobias Harris also played extremely decisive and looked the best he has in quite some time. The trio of Embiid, Curry, and Tobias came out with a will to win that was refreshing to see.
Aaron Henry also flashed some very impressive defense off the bench. Henry looked eager to jump at the opportunity for more minutes as he had played a total of 2:04 game time coming into this matchup. The Michigan State product has flashed his impressive defense with the Blue Coats all season and continued to show this on a bigger stage. The duo of Matisse Thybulle and Aaron Henry was very impactful against the Celtics and should be a defensive tandem to watch moving forward.
Overall it was a very impressive first half for the Sixers and they competed the full 24 minutes. At the half, Philadelphia led 51-49
The second half picked up right where it left off with Seth Curry, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid attempting to carry the Sixers to a win. Outside of these three, the Sixers got little help in the scoring department. The Sixers bench combined for a grand total of 1 point in this matchup via an Isaiah Joe free-throw.
Even without the help of the bench, it was a night that the Sixers starters would not allow for a loss. Joel Embiid took over down the stretch scoring the Sixers’ final 9 points down the stretch while anchoring things down on defense. Embiid ended with 41 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks, and 2 steals in an elite effort on both sides of the ball. 17 of Embiid’s points occurred in the fourth quarter and his touch in the midrange made him nearly unstoppable. The franchise centerpiece left it all on the floor including diving for loose balls and securing the game on a steal.
Seth Curry and Tobias Harris were also terrific but it was Embiid who lead the team home down the stretch. Curry deserves credit for taking the reigns at point guard and notched 7 assists on the game. Danny Green also had a quietly effective game as he ended with 8 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. Even though the stats look distorted this was an overall team win for the Sixers.
This was a win that was well-needed for the Sixers. The past few games have produced some disappointing efforts and this serves as a reminder of how good they can be. While relying so heavily on the trio of Embiid, Curry, and Tobias is not a sustainable method of winning, it is the desire to win that shone through.
The Sixers record is now 16-15 on the season which puts them right in the hunt for playoff seedings. There is currently only a 2.5 game difference between the 6th and 13th seeds in the Eastern Conference which gives each game a little more importance. It was nice to see the desire and effort level tonight for the Sixers and this needs to continue as guys return to full strength. The season has not been as imagined so far, but if the Sixers are able to build off this effort moving forward they could find themselves just where they are hoping to be when it is all said and done.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire