Saturday night wasn’t a game the Sixers needed to win — those sort of games don’t really exist in October. But a third straight loss would’ve added to the worries about the new defensive concepts, Markelle Fultz, Brett Brown’s rotation and much more.
Those questions don’t just disappear after a 105-103 win over the Hornets that moves the Sixers to 3-3, but they certainly would’ve been more unpleasant to answer after another loss.
• Joel Embiid’s status was in question after he rolled an ankle at practice Friday, but he was his usual dominant self in the low post.
The statistics he's putting up on a nightly basis are incredible. With 27 points and 14 rebounds, Embiid became the first player in franchise history with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in each game over the first six games of a season. Embiid was three points shy of posting at least 30 points and 10 points in five straight games.
Embiid did settle for a couple long-range jumpers late in the fourth quarter, an early-season trend, but it's hard to be too critical of another stellar performance.
• Ben Simmons couldn’t get anything to fall around the rim. Simmons shot 5 for 20, and many of those attempts were shots he usually makes inside. His shooting struggles are a big reason why this game was so close.
• Robert Covington’s defense hasn’t been consistent at the start of the season, but Saturday night was a return to form. Deflections; steals (2); blocks (4); solid on-ball defense on the opposition’s best player (Kemba Walker scored 37 points, but on 11 for 31 shooting, and most of his success come against defenders besides Covington) — a typical Covington performance.
His 18 points (4 for 7 from three-point range) were also second-most for the Sixers on the night, and his three-pointer with just under two minutes remaining was a huge shot.
• It’s nice to see the Sixers continue to set ball screens for Markelle Fultz, but Fultz hasn’t been making the most of those opportunities. His default Saturday night on 1-5 ball screens with Embiid was to look to dish it back to Embiid around the three-point line. That occasionally leads to an open long range shot for Embiid, but Fultz attacking the rim is a better option.
Embiid also poses a much greater threat when he rolls instead of pops. Fultz made a nice play early in the second quarter when Embiid did roll to the basket, probing the defense and finding Embiid inside for a layup.
• Fultz continues to look much more comfortable in transition than in the half court. He showed off the spin move he loves on the fast break in the second quarter.
SPINNIN'— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) October 28, 2018
Fultz gets a little fancy to get to the cup for a pair.
And the bench approves. pic.twitter.com/WpW2kvGdS9
And he went coast-to-coast with authority early in the fourth quarter.
GET OUT OF THE WAY.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) October 28, 2018
Fultz takes it the distance to pull out a monster slam! pic.twitter.com/RGo6v83GzZ
Fultz posted 10 points (4 for 9 from the floor) and four assists in 25 minutes.
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