5 takeaways from the Sixers’ win over the Nets

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, center, tries to hang onto the ball against Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving, left, and Ben Simmons during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The 2nd-seeded Philadelphia 76ers (31-16) faced off against the 4th-seeded Brooklyn Nets (29-18) team that is eagerly awaiting Kevin Durant’s return. Coming into this matchup, the Sixers had just finished an undefeated five-game Western Conference road trip while the Brooklyn Nets held a 5-5 record over their last 10 games, slowly falling down the Eastern Conference Rankings.

However, the biggest storyline in this game was Ben Simmons’ long-awaited return to Well Fargo Center. The 3-time All-Star had yet to play a game against Philly since his holdout and eventual trade to the Brooklyn Nets.

Takeaway #1: The Sixers Won the Harden Trade

James Harden rewound the clock tonight and was instrumental in the Sixers’ win. In the fourth quarter, as the Nets were really starting to make a comeback happen, James Harden hit back-to-back three-pointers to shift the momentum. Of course, Philly still let the Nets hang around all the way until the end, but Harden’s big play ability flashed once again for the Sixers when they needed him the most. The Beard finished the game with 23 points, seven assists, and three rebounds. He also shot 50.0% from the field (6/12), 50.0% from beyond the arc (5/10), and 85.7% from the line (6/7).

Ben Simmons, on the other hand, had an interesting night. He finished with 12 points for the Nets, his fifth-highest total for the season on efficient shooting (5/7 from the field, 0/0 from three). He also made 2 out of his three free throws. That being said, he committed four fouls, didn’t register a steal, and was a -16 in box plus/minus. While the Australian guard/forward didn’t have a necessarily bad game, he didn’t exactly blow anyone away with his play.

Takeaway #2: Seth Curry Loves Wells Fargo Center

Seth Curry was back in Philadelphia tonight as well. The beloved shooting guard, and casualty of the James Harden trade, was at his peak tonight, pouring in 32 points in 35 minutes. He had many fans reminiscing from the other side of a television screen about his days as a Sixer. The sharpshooter went 7/10 from beyond the arc and 11/20 from the field. Curry will be a free agent at the conclusion of this season, and it will be interesting to see if the Sixers and he are interested in a reunion. Clearly, he still loves playing in Philly.

Takeaway #3: Matisse Thybulle

Matisse Thybulle only played 12 minutes of this game. Whether that’s because of matchups, play style, coaching decisions, or anything else, Matisse Thybulle didn’t get to see the court too much. However, in those 12 minutes, Thybulle was extremely effective for the Sixers. The 4th year Washington Husky finished the game with 10 points, two rebounds, one assist, and 3(!) steals. He even showed his willingness to shoot the deep ball. Four of his five attempts in the game were from three. He finished the game going 3/5 from the field and 2/4 from deep.

Takeaway #4: Holy Free throw Percentage, Batman!

While Philly has been hunting free throws this season (24.0 per game this season, 7th in the NBA), the Sixers took a ton of free throws tonight. The Sixers finished the game with 36 free throws attempted, converting all but one of those attempts (35/36). This, in large part, is thanks to the Brooklyn Nets, who committed a total of 26 penalties in the matchup. While a lot of those free throws were from the MVP himself, Joel Embiid (13/13 from the line), it’s important to note that six other players shot free throws tonight, with Harden having the lone miss.

Takeaway #5: Tyrese Maxey is too Good

Tyrese Maxey was actually the leading scorer tonight, dropping 27 points off the bench thanks to his six three-pointers. The future superstar went 8/14 from the field and 6/9 from beyond the arc. He also tallied five assists, three rebounds, and two steals to go along with his incredible scoring numbers. Since coming off the bench on January 15th, Maxey has been carving out a new role as a sixth man. In those four games of bench play, Maxey is averaging 20.0 points and 2.5 assists per game on 54.9% from the field and 47.8% from the field. While some may not agree with Maxey’s usage as a sixth man, no one can argue that he isn’t extremely good at it.