The Philadelphia 76ers lost an absolute nail-biter on the road to the Golden State Warriors on Friday night. Joel Embiid carried the Sixers as best he could, but the team ultimately fell by a final score was 120-112.
The first quarter consisted of a whole lot of missed shots for both teams, though the Sixers were ball-handling rather well. Even Joel Embiid went 0-2 from three and only made three of his five free throws in the first quarter. But the Sixers seemed to click with five minutes left in the first quarter. With the score tied at 13 apiece, Embiid had an excellent steal, which became an easy Tobias Harris dunk to take the lead. They ended the first ahead by four, 27-23.
But the shots began to improve for Golden State in the second quarter, especially as Embiid – who’s also nursing a minor calf injury – began the second quarter on the bench. But a Steph Curry three, quickly followed by an Anthony Lamb bucket, exposed the Sixers’ season-long struggles on transition defense.
It didn’t help that the team couldn’t make a three to save their lives, going 2-11 in the first half. Even still, a combination of Tobias Harris’ offensive toughness, two threes by Tyrese Maxey, and Embiid’s free throws kept them in the game. They ended the half narrowly behind the Warriors, 55-53.
Philadelphia quickly tied it up once again, though, early in the second half, thanks to a third three from Maxey. And it stayed neck-and-neck throughout most of the third until a Sixers breakaway took them up 86-79. But once again, a string of Warriors’ threes from Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole kept Golden State ultra-close by. And as the clock counted down in the fourth, the game eventually became a nail-biter of a shootout. And a corner three from Jordan Poole – his sixth of the night – was the dagger.
Despite another unbelievable night from Joel Embiid, the team’s struggles in transition defense and the absence of key playmaker James Harden proved too much against the sharpshooting reigning champions.
MVP-ladder leader Joel Embiid ended his night with 46 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and a block. And while Harden’s absence meant every shot was fought for a little harder, Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey both stepped up in a major way – with each putting up over 20 points.
Still, with just eleven games remaining in the regular season, the Sixers clearly still have work to do in tightening up their transition defense. The team travels to Phoenix to face Kevin Durant and the Suns tomorrow night.