Sixers send Golden State back on the road with another loss

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Golden State Warriors’ Donte DiVincenzo, right, tries to get a shot past Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 16, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia 76ers entered the Golden State matchup on a three-game winning streak. Unfortunately, they would not have Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey in the first of two meetings between both franchises. In their absence, the Sixers would turn to Matisse Thybulle and De’Anthony Melton to start.

On a night where Sixers fans hoped to see Stephen Curry up close, they’d have to settle for another Warrior, who once played in Philly. Donte DiVincenzo, former Villanova star, came out firing as if he were playing in a national title game. The former Michael Jordan of Delaware lit up the Sixers right away, nailing four of four 3-pointers. He wasn’t the only Warrior hot beyond the arc. In the first quarter, Golden State as a team shot 90% (9-10) from the 3-point line.

The Sixers also had success from the perimeter. James Harden was the major scoring source for Philly early on. He was as efficient in the paint as he was from three. The perennial All-Star and former scoring champion showed an array of moves, driving the paint and scoring among Golden State’s bigs. He made baskets off the dribble and pulled up for shots mid-range to keep the Warriors from pulling away.

P.J. Tucker made his first 3-pointer and hit the offensive glass for an easy score as the game unfolded early. Danuel House was the first substitute in the game for Philly as Thybulle took a seat. Shake Milton came in and added instant offense, while De’Anthony knocked down perimeter shots to keep pace with the Warriors.

A common theme in the first half that carried over into the second was the horrid play of guard Klay Thompson. The Bay area sharp-shooter could not hit the side of a barn on this night. He struggled from practically everywhere on the court. He ended up shooting 4-17, scoring only 12 points. Clearly, he was not on his game in this matchup. Besides DiVincenzo’s initial outburst, Jordan Poole was the only other bright spot for them, coming away with 29 points to lead the Warriors in scoring.

Joel Embiid got off to a slow start but eventually warmed up. He attacked James Wiseman and Kevon Looney whenever he had the chance. Embiid was attacking from all over though. He established position and posted up on anyone that was foolish enough to try. In addition, Embiid stretched the floor, pulling up and making two of three 3-pointers. Though he had six turnovers, the Sixers big man scored 34 points on only 23 field goal attempts.

Defensively, Embiid altered at least a half dozen Golden State shots throughout the entire game. At the end of the first half, Embiid had a fierce block on Jordan Poole, sending a clear message to the visitors before walking back into the locker room. Another astonishing block came in the second half when Matisse Thybulle swatted Poole on what looked at first like an open 3-pointer.

The Warriors’ defense tried everything to slow down Harden and Embiid, even going to a zone defense. Golden State played drop coverage, allowing Philly’s shooters to take open looks off screens. This helped the Sixers claim the lead and go on runs.

In the second half, Jordan Poole seemed determined to take over, knocking down shot after shot. Although the ball movement for Golden State wasn’t as effective later in the game, they did have shooters fake out Sixers defenders on the perimeter and dropped perfect bounce passes to rollers who scored at ease on several plays in the third.

Melton and Thybulle picked up their defense to complement Embiid’s interior protection. The Sixers flustered the Warriors into bad shots and gave Doc Rivers a nice lead that ballooned into double digits in the fourth quarter. Georges Niang nailed several 3-pointers, and even Matisse Thybulle knocked down a three for the Sixers after air-balling one early in the game.

Doc Rivers, during a timeout in the final quarter, was filmed addressing the Sixers. He yelled, “Get the ball up the floor and attack!” That is exactly what they did. The 76ers pushed the ball and accumulated 17 fast break points. Embiid, not known for stellar outlet passes, had a nice pass ahead to a teammate, who gave it back to Embiid for a transition 3-pointer. Soon after, James Harden launched a gorgeous outlet pass to Danuel House, who slammed it home to extend the lead.

The pick-and-roll with Joel Embiid and James Harden was effective in most instances. Harden also used screens from Georges Niang to get good looks at the rim. Harden ended up with 27 points and nine assists. The frustration on Klay Thompson’s face was apparent as his splash brother looked helpless on the Warriors’ bench. Kevon Looney’s near-triple double was wasted, and Jonathan Kuminga looked out of sorts most of the night. The Sixers’ defense came alive while Golden State’s offense sputtered.

When Donte DiVincenzo was reliving his hot-shooting days as a Villanova player in the first quarter, Steve Kerr greeted him on the sideline, saying, “Welcome home, baby!” In the end, Philly spoiled the homecoming for DiVincenzo. The 76ers walked away with a 118-106 victory to boost their record to 16-12, good for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

Philly squares off against the Warriors one more time this season on March 24, 2023. The Sixers’ next game is versus the Toronto Raptors on Monday night. Tip-off is at 7 PM and can be watched on CSN Philly.

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