The 76ers may have clinched a playoff spot already, but there is still plenty to play for as the regular season unwinds. The Eastern conference seedings are still up for grabs, the Sixers are still ironing out the kinks in the new-look James Harden-led offense, and the MVP race is still alive. It was far from a perfect performance against the 25-55 Indiana Pacers, but the Sixers were able to secure a 131-122 victory to advance to 49-30 on the year.
Philadelphia’s offense exploded in the second quarter pouring in 49 points, making it just the eighth time in franchise history that they have scored 49 or more in a quarter. This pushed it to an 82-59 lead at halftime, with the 76ers connecting on historic shooting splits. In typical Sixers fashion, the lead began to disappear in the third quarter largely due to a lackluster defensive performance. A flagrant two from DeAndre Jordan put an early end to the non-Embiid minutes, and the 76ers star returned to steer the team to a 131-122 victory.
76ers’ Three-Point Shooting
The Philadelphia 76ers were red-hot from beyond the three-point arc in this matchup. Philly set a season-high in the first half for made three-pointers in the half with 17 and set a franchise record with 23 made three-pointers in the game. They shot 60.7% in the first half, and this effort was led by a 10-13 effort from Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey.
The strong shooting continued in the second half as the Sixers shot 23-40 (57.5%) from beyond the arc over the entirety of the game. Tyrese Maxey set a career-high in three-point makes by shooting 8 for 11 from deep. Tobias Harris set the tone early, knocking down 4 straight catch-and-shoot three-pointers and ending 5 for 6 on the game. Georges Niang also knocked down 3 of 4 attempts, and Shake Milton was 2 for 3 off the bench.
Joel Embiid Heard the MVP Chatter
For most of the season, it has been Joel Embiid’s MVP to lose, but the tone has changed in recent weeks. Embiid carried the team through the first half of the season, giving MVP production and having the narrative to match it. The impressive play of Nikola Jokic has flipped the Vegas odds in his favor as the season winds down, but it is clear Embiid is still carrying a chip on his shoulder.
The 76ers’ franchise centerpiece scored 45 points and tallied 13 rebounds in this game, propelling the Sixers toward victory. This impressive scoring performance also raised Joel Embiid’s scoring average to 30.4 points per game which puts him back on top in the NBA scoring race.
LeBron James is in second place with 30.3 points per game; however, it is worth noting he has only played 56 games and is currently out with an ankle injury. The NBA requires players to participate in 70% (58 games) of their team’s games in order to be eligible for the postseason awards, which was the reason Joel Embiid did not take home the Most Valuable Player Award last season. The points that Embiid added were necessary to secure the victory in this matchup as the lead was cut to as low as 4 points in the 4th quarter.
Tobias Harris Strong Play
The tone was set early by Tobias Harris as he knocked down a corner three for the 76ers’ first possession of the game and hit a total of three in the first quarter. Harris has made a conscious effort to become a cleaner fit in the Sixers’ offense, and it is showing. The Tennessee product ended with 17 points and shot 5 of 6 from beyond the arc, with 4 of the 5 makes coming off the catch-and-shoot.
The growth that Tobias has shown in making quick decisions is turning him into a weapon in the Sixers’ offense, and the veteran’s three-point percentage has risen to 36.7% on the season after shooting below 30% prior to the all-star break. Harris has attempted 5 or more three-point attempts in six of the last seven games, and his ability to space the floor is providing extremely positive results for the Sixers as a team.
It was a very successful offensive game for the 76ers, and it felt as if they were due for a hot shooting game. They obviously can’t shoot 57.5% on three-point attempts on a nightly basis; however, the looks that they produced and offensive sets that were run are very positive takeaways. The Sixers had a poor overall defensive effort, but it was not needed with their offensive production tonight. James Harden also struggled to find his stride tonight, ending with 11 points and 14 rebounds on 4 of 10 shooting.
With the victory tonight and the Atlant Hawks’ win over Milwaukee, the Sixers, Bucks, and Celtics all have a record of 49-30 on the season. Each team is tied for second place and 2.5 games behind the Heat for first. There are three-game remaining for each team, but for the moment, the Philadelphia 76ers will sit in the fourth slot and are slated for a playoff matchup with the Toronto Raptors.