As any Sixers fan could tell you, the team’s perimeter defense has been a problem throughout the season. It looked like that issue was going to cost the Sixers Wednesday night against the Spurs.
Then the team pulled off a wild, improbable comeback, going on a 10-0 run to end the game and beat San Antonio, 122-120.
JJ Redick’s four-point play gave the Sixers (32-17) the lead, and Wilson Chandler blocked DeMar DeRozan on his drive to the rim.
Corey Brewer then split a pair of free throws and Ben Simmons knocked away a pass intended for Marco Belinelli on the Spurs’ final possession with 1.1 seconds left.
Jimmy Butler missed his second straight game for the Sixers with a sore right wrist. Head coach Brett Brown said before the game he doesn’t expect the injury to sideline Butler long term.
• Redick wasn’t having a great game, but give him credit for knocking down a couple of incredible shots late. He’s an invaluable late-game option for the Sixers and never loses faith in his jumper, for good reason.
• Embiid, a game-time decision again with back tightness, had one of his worst games of the season in the Sixers’ first matchup against the Spurs on Dec. 17, shooting 6 for 17 in a 123-96 loss in San Antonio.
He came out determined to attack LaMarcus Aldridge, attempting eight shots in the game’s first five minutes.
Give Aldridge and the Spurs credit for defending Embiid well early, mostly forcing him into contested mid-range shots and avoiding fouls. That said, Embiid did settle for jumpers on several occasions in the first half when he had the space to back Aldridge down in the post.
After shooting 5 for 14 in the first half, Embiid was 9 for 14 in the second. He reached yet another statistical milestone, recording his league-leading 40th double-double of the season with 33 points and 19 rebounds.
• Simmons did an excellent job running the Sixers’ offense.
He had a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists, including a beauty to Brewer.
No look necessary. 🤷♂️ pic.twitter.com/hGniSvdBuw— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 24, 2019
Simmons made two turnaround jumpers, one over his left shoulder and one over his right shoulder.
• Another start, another matchup against an All-Star for Brewer, who was tasked with guarding DeRozan.
The Spurs star did manage 26 points, though most of them came when Brewer was on the bench.
Brewer plays with an infectious joy and passion. His slightly wild smile and fist pump after harassing DeRozan and drawing a travel call, the way he held his follow-through for a couple extra seconds after making a three-pointer — it’s clear to everyone he loves playing basketball and is thrilled to still be doing it at the highest level.
Brewer had nine points, two steals and two assists vs. the Spurs. He’s proven he deserves to be with the Sixers for more than the duration of his 10-day contract.
• With the way Jonah Bolden is playing, backup center should be far down the list of priorities for the Sixers at the trade deadline.
We’ve talked plenty before about his athleticism, his flashes of three-point shooting, his impressive defensive instincts, and the rookie continues to deliver all those qualities just about every time he plays.
He had an electric sequence in the second quarter when he blocked Aldridge twice at the rim, then sprinted down the floor for a dunk.
Just a couple of Aussies, getting things done.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 24, 2019
Bolden and Simmons with a little international flair on both ends. pic.twitter.com/ri7pWN4ots
A perimeter defensive player should be much higher on the Sixers’ wish list than a big man, and Wednesday night’s performance provided even more evidence.
• Marco Belinelli, who became a fan favorite in his short stint with the Sixers last season for his apparently limitless confidence and ability to score in bursts, got a warm round of applause from the Wells Fargo Center crowd when he entered the game. He didn’t hear many cheers late in the first quarter when he knocked down a pair of his patented, off-balance threes, except from a few stray Spurs fans in attendance.
• The Sixers got some instant offense of their own off the bench in the form of T.J. McConnell, who shot 5 for 7. McConnell entered Wednesday’s game as the best mid-range shooter in the NBA at 56.2 percent, and he feasted in his favorite area vs. the Spurs.
As is often the case, however, McConnell was a negative on defense.
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