Sixers-Hawks observations: Overcoming blown lead for 1st home win

Sixers-Hawks observations: Overcoming blown lead for 1st home win


There was one team that gave up an early 17-point lead and another one that scored just 16 points in the fourth quarter. 

The Sixers were the ones to bounce back while the Hawks blundered down the stretch in a 119-109 win on Wednesday. 

Joel Embiid reached the 30-minute mark for the first time in his career as he carried the Sixers down the stretch with 11 points and five boards in the fourth quarter.

The Sixers improved to 4-4 with their first home victory of the season, while the Hawks fell to 1-7. The Sixers also continued to snap long losing streaks against opponents, like they did in Houston. The Sixers had dropped the previous seven games to the Hawks and had not beaten them since March 7, 2015.

• This was going to be a blowout, right? Not so fast. The Sixers jumped out to a 25-8 lead with 5:20 to play in the first quarter. The Hawks outscored them 17-9 in the period after that. The Sixers still had a nine-point advantage after the quarter, powered by eight points from Robert Covington (who ended up with 22 points) and 6 for 7 three-point shooting as a team.

• The Hawks’ game plan between quarters worked. They went on an 11-2 run to tie it up, 57-57, off six points from Dennis Schroder (he scored a game-high 25). The Sixers led by two, 59-57, at the end of the second quarter. Only Covington (2 for 2) and Embiid (0 for 2) attempted free throws for the Sixers in the half.

• The third quarter was evenly matched. Ben Simmons and Schroder dropped 10 points apiece as the teams were tied 93-93 after the third. The Sixers were more aggressive getting to the line (10 for 16), but gave up nine points off five turnovers.  

• The Sixers were cool and collected in the fourth. For the second straight game, they made that takeover time. The Sixers outscored the Hawks 26-16 in the frame. The Hawks went cold as they shot 5 for 20 from the field. 

• Embiid had his hands all over the court. With 21 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks, he affected this game in more ways than a typical true center (see highlights)

• Simmons was just one assist short of a triple-double: 19 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. 

Since Simmons has started taking more jumpers, let’s track them here with the #SimmonsShotWatch. He kicked off the game with a 16-foot jump shot. After that, he didn’t attempt another shot beyond 11 feet (excluding an 86-foot toss at the end of the first quarter). But really, that doesn’t matter when he’s making moves like this:

• The Sixers went with a new starting lineup against the Hawks. JJ Redick returned after missing two games because of lower-back tightness. He joined Simmons, Covington, Embiid and … Dario Saric. 

That change moved Jerryd Bayless to the bench. It accomplished two factors: helped Saric continue to get a rhythm as he is clearly the most comfortable as a starter and added an offensive boost to the second unit in Bayless. Brown reiterated the starting five will be fluid this season and he’s more concerned with which players end the game.

• Redick wasn’t back to his sharpshooting form yet. He was 3 of 11 from the field, including 0 for 6 in the third, and 1 for 6 from three overall. Redick hit his first trey with less than three minutes to play. He entered the game shooting 42.4 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from long range. Still, he logged 32 minutes.

• Jahlil Okafor stayed engaged with the Sixers after stating earlier in the day he would like a buyout or a trade (see story). Okafor was up on his feet to high five teammates during timeouts and between quarters. 

• Injury updates: Covington suffered a knee right hyperflexion in the second half and returned. Markelle Fultz (right shoulder soreness, muscle imbalance) and Richaun Holmes (left wrist fracture) remained out. 

Hawks guard Malcolm Delaney suffered a sprained right ankle and did not return. He scored eight points in nine minutes off the bench. St. Joe’s product DeAndre’ Bembry (fractured right wrist), former Sixer Ersan Ilyasova (left knee bone bruise) and Miles Plumlee (strained right quad) did not play for the Hawks. 

• Fly, Eagles, fly. Eagles offensive linemen Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks rang the ceremonial bell. Former wide receiver Freddie Mitchell was also at the game. Philly rapper Lil Uzi Vert helped out with the T-shirt toss, too. 

Imagine how good Sixers can be once this trio gets rolling

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Imagine how good Sixers can be once this trio gets rolling

As we collectively bask in the glow of the Southern California smackdown the Sixers administered to the Clippers and the Lakers to close out their road trip at 3-2, let’s take a little inventory of just what they’ve accomplished overall this season.

Through 14 games, they are 8-6. That’s two wins shy of their total amount of victories just two seasons ago and we’re still in November. The times they have a changed in Sixer-land.

The team has not one, but two transcendent stars who are capable of taking over games.

Joel Embiid’s last two performances have been pure dominance. 78 points, 31 rebounds, eight blocks and nine assists, while shooting 25 of 40 from the floor and averaging 35 minutes. He’s made whomever is guarding him look foolish, including one of the better defenders in the game, DeAndre Jordan.

From Game One, Ben Simmons has looked like a 10-year veteran. His poise belies his years. Simmons is a double-double machine and a triple-double threat every night. He’s posting gaudy early numbers of 20.3 points per game, 9.2 rebounds and 7.7 assists. Despite not being a threat beyond 12 feet, Simmons' ability to get to the rack and finish with either hand more than compensates for his outside shortcomings. That duo has been awesome.

Not to be overlooked is Robert Covington. The 26-year-old, who transformed himself into a top-10 defender in the league, is putting up monster offensive stats after an inconsistent season from the floor last year. Covington is scoring 18.3 points, while shooting 50 percent from the field and nearly 50 percent from three-point land. Couple that offensive production with his defensive prowess and the Sixers got a pretty good bargain for a reported four years, $62 million.  

But what’s even more remarkable when considering the Sixers' good start is who they are doing it without. First-overall draft pick Markelle Fultz has played in just four games this season as he continues to battle a shoulder issue. Take a look at the contribution the NBA’s best team thus far, the Celtics, have gotten from third-overall pick, Jayson Tatum. The 19-year-old is scoring nearly 14 points per game and pulling down more than 5.5 rebounds, while shooting close to 50 percent from the field and 48 percent from three. He’s been an integral piece in their 14-game winning streak. The Sixers have not had that luxury.

Beyond Fultz, Dario Saric has not been able to find a rhythm all season. Saric averaged 15.8 points per game over the final three months of last season. He hasn’t rebounded or shot it as well this season either. No doubt there were going to adjustments and growing pains incorporating with Simmons and with more availability from Embiid, but as the season progresses they will need more from Saric.

The other crazy thing about the wins against the Clippers and Lakers was the manner in which J.J. Redick struggled. He shot 7 of 25 from the floor and 1 for 15 from three-point land. He did make some late buckets inside in the Lakers game, but he’s here to knock down shots.

I believe Brett Brown will figure out a way to get more out of Saric. The Croatian works way too hard and cares far too much to not get going. With Redick, shooters can be streaky, it happens. And even when he is not making shots, he provides a lot in terms of leadership and example. How Fultz will fit in and what his shooting form will look like is anybody’s guess but they didn’t give up a lot to move up two spots for nothing. He wasn’t the consensus first-overall pick by accident. My sense is in addition to the shoulder issue, he is struggling mightily with his confidence. So it could be a process with him when he’s ready to return.

To be winning without much of a contribution from these players speaks volumes about how good the Sixers' big three (Embiid, Simmons, Covington) have been. And it’s been noticed nationally. The Laker win was a coming out party of sorts for those on the fringes. They are coming to the realization that we’ve known in this city for some time now.

This team is a playoff contender now. The question is how much better will they be at full compliment?

Best of NBA: Celtics surge past Warriors for 14th straight win

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Best of NBA: Celtics surge past Warriors for 14th straight win

BOSTON -- Kyrie Irving had 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including two free throws that put Boston ahead in the closing seconds, and the Celtics beat the Golden State Warriors 92-88 on Thursday night for their 14th straight victory.

Jaylen Brown had 22 points and seven rebounds, and Al Horford added 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Kevin Durant has 24 points for Golden State. The defending champion Warriors had won seven in a row.

Playing his second game since suffering a facial fracture, Irving shed his protective mask in the second quarter. Then, with the game tied at 88, he was fouled on his layup attempt and calmly made a pair of free throws. Durant then came up empty on his jumper on the other end.

Golden State led by as many as 17, but had to lean heavily on its reserves as its trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant struggled offensively.

Curry, who returned to action after missing a game with a bruised right thigh, was the most ineffective. He was 3 of 14 from the field -- 2 of 9 from the 3-point line -- and had nine points (see full recap).

Harden’s 48 points ignite Rockets’ rout of Suns
PHOENIX -- James Harden had 23 of his 48 points in the second quarter while the Houston Rockets scored 90 points in the first half en route to a 142-116 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

Houston dominated with Chris Paul back in the lineup after missing 14 games with a knee injury. The Rockets made 61 percent of their first-half shots to get the second-most points in a first half in NBA history.

Houston came up 14 points shy of the franchise record for points in a game. The Rockets knocked down 21 of 44 3-point attempts, and Harden made all 18 of his free throws (see full recap).

Harden, the NBA's leading scorer, had 33 points at halftime. Houston used a 13-1 over the final 3:08 of the first quarter to take control and was never threatened after that, leading 45-23 going into the second.

Paul, who hadn't played since the season opener, got the start and didn't miss a beat, scoring 11 points and handing out 10 assists in limited action.

Coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game that getting the two stars, Harden and Paul, in sync will "take care of itself over the next week or so." D'Antoni planned to play Paul for 20 minutes; Paul saw 21 minutes of action and sat out most of the fourth quarter.

Ryan Anderson added 24 points for the Rockets, who have won seven of eight (see full recap).