The Sixers’ home record is still unblemished.
They beat the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night, 116-109, to move to 20-7 on the season and 14-0 at Wells Fargo Center. This was New Orleans’ 11th straight defeat.
Tobias Harris scored a team-high 31 points on 12 for 20 shooting, helping the Sixers to overcome an uneven effort.
Here are observations on the win:
Harris and Simmons strike the right balance
Yet again, Harris struck the right middle ground between letting the game come to him and forcing the issue offensively.
He scored nine points in the third quarter, including a three from the right corner when the Sixers were searching for something to wake them up.
For Harris, this was another game in which he seemed to both understand and provide what the Sixers needed.
Simmons imposed his physical advantages well and finished with 24 points, 11 assists and just one turnover. He missed three of his first four free throws when New Orleans turned to the "Hack-a-Simmons" strategy, then converted his next four.
Norvel Pelle, undeterred
Two-way player Norvel Pelle initially received the backup center minutes over veteran Kyle O’Quinn.
In his third NBA regular-season game, Pelle quickly picked up two fouls on aggressive challenges at the rim. The 26-year-old was, as usual, undeterred. He blocked former Sixer Jahlil Okafor, leading to a Simmons dunk on the other end, then swatted Brandon Ingram’s dunk attempt and watched from the floor as the Sixers started a fast break that ended in a three by James Ennis.
Pelle earned First Team All-Defense honors last season in the G League with the Delaware Blue Coats. After an unconventional route to the NBA that took him to Taiwan, Lebanon and Italy, he’s flashed some of the same skills that made him a star attraction at his other stops. On Nov. 30, Brett Brown said he thought Pelle was “an NBA player.”
Whether or not his chance comes with the Sixers, Pelle took another step toward showing he has a future in the league Friday night, though his fouls (five in 12 minutes) are a concern. Despite the irregular playing time and uncertainty about when he’ll have opportunities, he was ready to go vs. the Pelicans.
“Preparation is the main thing, especially being on this level,” he said Nov. 12. “Getting your number called and coming in, doing what you’ve gotta do — that’s the main thing. Focusing on your job and excelling at that job. I’ve learned moving forward, just be ready. Always be ready.”
What the Sixers do with him moving forward will be interesting. Since he’s signed to a one-year, two-way deal, he can spend a maximum of 45 days with the Sixers between the start of Blue Coats training camp and the end of the G League regular season. He’s currently ineligible for the NBA playoffs.
Pelle had six points, five rebounds, three blocks and two assists.
JJ Redick had 19 points on 6 of 15 shooting in his return to Philadelphia. The 35-year-old guard, who signed a two-year, $26.5 million deal with the Pelicans this offseason, shared his thoughts on Joel Embiid, Simmons and the Sixers’ new offensive identity earlier in the day (see story).
The Sixers showed a tribute video for Redick in the first quarter.
Redick beating Furkan Korkmaz back door and then sprinting around screens to create a small gap for a leaning three a few minutes later was an odd sight, even if the plays themselves were familiar.
A lousy stretch
The Sixers started the way they were supposed to, taking a 39-23 lead after the first quarter.
Their defensive execution went downhill from there as the Pelicans went on a 48-31 run to take the advantage.
Redick, Ingram and the Pelicans deserve part of the credit for their shotmaking, but the Sixers’ defensive intensity — fighting over screens, boxing out, closing out — all deteriorated.
They looked like a team playing the second game of a road-home back-to-back, confident that their superior talent would win out in the end. Their surge to retake the lead was impressive, though the way they finished the game did not inspire confidence.
Embiid not quite as dominant
The night after his 38-point, 13-rebound performance vs. the Celtics, Joel Embiid did not reach that same elite level again.
He did look to attack favorable matchups in the first half against Derrick Favors and Okafor and yes, he appeared to be having fun.
Embiid just wasn’t as efficient as he’d been in Boston (24 points on 6 for 16 shooting), though he mostly did well when double teamed. He had 11 assists and four turnovers over the back-to-back.
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