Sixers vs Rockets: 3 takeaways from a resurgent win

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Sixers vs Rockets: The Philadelphia 76ers traveled to Houston for the first game of a back-to-back. They were taking on a young Rockets team without Joel Embiid, so the Sixers needed a big game from Tyrese Maxey. He answered the call.

Maxey attack

Coming into the game, the Houston Rockets were the 26th ranked NBA team in blocks. Their 4.3 blocks a game indicated lack of rim protection. Like a shark that smells blood in the water, Maxey attacked the basket last night on a mission.

Chicago Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan, left, tries to get past Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 18, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Of his 13 made field goals, Maxey made 10 at the rim. His acrobatic layups were contested, but Maxey was too skillful with his angles. No matter who tried to stop his penetration and finish at the basket, he was able to convert while taking contact. Maxey was tough as nails on his drives.

Nick Nurse praised Maxey for his ability to score against the Rockets after getting knocked to the ground on so many plays. Following the game, the 76ers coach said of Maxey, “He got some hits and bumps, but he got to the free throw line because he was aggressive.” 

Without Joel Embiid out again due to an ankle injury, Maxey became the primary scorer, and his first half outburst for 27 points was needed to keep the Sixers in the game. The 76ers trailed for most of the game, but Maxey’s aggressive scoring mentality helped the team make a late surge to secure the win.

Late game push from the Sixers sealed the deal

The Rockets controlled the pace of the game and had their way in the paint versus the 76ers. For three quarters, they held off the Sixers and preserved the lead with stellar play from their top three players, Alperen Sengun, Jalen Green, and Fred VanVleet. Together they scored 92 points. The largest lead for Houston was 11 points.

With such potent scoring, the Rockets managed to prevent any back-and-forth lead changes until the game got tight in the fourth quarter. Then savvy veteran play for Philly showed up.

Clutch shooting from Patrick Beverley and Marcus Morris, Jr. helped the 76ers take the lead and never give it back. 

Pat Bev sixers
Philadelphia 76ers’ Patrick Beverley (22) drives past Boston Celtics’ Neemias Queta (88) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Of their 13 made field goals in the final period, the Sixers made six 3-pointers. They shot 62 percent as a team in the fourth quarter. 

Surprisingly, Maxey only took three shots in the last period. He made two of the three field goals, but he did score from the free throw line. He visited the foul line 15 times and only missed once.

Their late game rally was a collective effort.

Team balance

For a second consecutive game, the ball was spread around and everyone chipped in. Offensively, they had five players score in double figures, and of the ten Sixers who played, nine scored a field goal. On the glass, of the ten players who saw minutes, all ten grabbed a rebound. With Joel Embiid absent, everyone stepped up in some way.

Even defensively, the Sixers were in sync with their hustle plays. Six players recorded at least one ball deflection. Robert Covington led everyone in the game with five deflections. The 76ers caused 16 Houston turnovers, which helped spark the second half rally. 

Lastly, the Sixers were solid from the free throw line as a team. They attempted 33 foul shots and missed only four. That aggressiveness led to a free throw disparity in favor of Philly. The Rockets only visited the foul line 21 times and they made only 71 percent of those shots. The 76ers took advantage of this disparity, especially in the final moments of the game when Houston was forced to stop the clock.