Never in doubt.
The Sixers overcame a hideous second quarter to beat the Nets in overtime, 112-104, on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Thanks to Joel Embiid’s relentlessness — and timely free throws — and Alec Burks’ clutch baskets, the Sixers avoided disappointment in their first game back from the All-Star break. They were also outstanding defensively in the extra period, holding Brooklyn to one point.
Ben Simmons missed the game with lower back tightness and his absence was felt throughout this one.
The win improves the Sixers to an NBA-best 26-2 at home and 35-21 overall. They’ll travel to Milwaukee to take on the NBA-best Bucks Saturday night (8:30 p.m./ABC)
Here are observations from the win:
Embiid leads the way
Embiid got off to a hot start but did struggle a bit with DeAndre Jordan in the second quarter. Still, it was Embiid and Tobias Harris that really provided the only offense early. Brett Brown went to the duo in the pick-and-roll to start the second half and did get a few good looks.
The Sixers didn’t get a point from their bench until an Al Horford and-one with 4:51 remaining in the first half. The only other points that came from a reserve before halftime were off an Alec Burks’ three.
In the second half, Embiid just wouldn’t be denied. He had 13 points in the third and put the Sixers on his back. He grabbed 16 rebounds — six offensive — and was a plus-24. He was 18 of 19 from the line, with none bigger than the four he hit down the stretch. It was as active and spry as we've seen the All-Star center all season, diving for loose balls and crashing the offensive glass. He had a game-high 39 points.
Harris was also strong as Embiid’s running mate, scoring 22 points (10 of 20) and recording 12 rebounds and six assists.
Burks provides a spark
Speaking of Burks, Brett Brown mentioned at practice Wednesday he wanted to put Burks in positions to score. In the first half, we didn’t see that. In the third, Burks gave them a huge boost with nine points in the quarter. You saw what he brings to the table offensively working in the pick-and-roll and finishing on a nice floater in the paint. Burks also came up with a huge and-one in OT to put the Sixers up two. He scored 5 of the team's nine points in overtime and finished with 19 for the game.
The Sixers needed someone to create and make shots and Burks provided. It helped the Sixers get back into the game and eventually close it out.
A disastrous second quarter
After looking in control in the first quarter, the Sixers had arguably one of their worst quarters of the season — and maybe of all time. The Nets went on a 46-10 run … no, that is not a typo. The Sixers were outscored 24-2 to start the period. It took a late run by the Sixers for the Nets to have a 32-16 advantage in the second. Miraculously, the Sixers only trailed by 10 at the half.
The big swing coincided with Horford and Jordan. Horford was a minus-30 in 11 first-half minutes and just looked a step slow all night. Jordan was a plus-25, was extremely active on the glass and slowed down Embiid after a hot start — though Embiid ultimately got the better of the matchup.
The Sixers also just couldn’t make a shot. They went just 6 of 16 for the quarter and shot 3 of 12 from three for the half.
It was noticeable how badly the Sixers missed Simmons in this one. How often recently have we seen Simmons just attack open space and either finish or create for others when the Sixers’ offense is struggling?
Coming into the night, Simmons led the league in assists on threes. Perhaps his ability to penetrate and dish would’ve helped the Sixers get some better looks. His absence also allowed the Nets to direct most of their attention to Embiid.
In his place, Raul Neto struggled on both ends. Brooklyn attacked him on defense, and he didn’t do enough offensively to make up for it. The Sixers didn’t need Neto to be Simmons, but they could’ve used more. Shake Milton was solid in his second half run as the team's point guard.
Slowing down Dinwiddie and LeVert
The Sixers have routinely been victimized by the guard duo of Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. The Sixers’ trio of Josh Richardson, Glenn Robinson III and Matisse Thybulle did an outstanding job in containing them. They scored their fair share of points, but took an awful lot of shots to do it.
Even without Ben Simmons, who’s been playing at a Defensive Player of the Year level, the Sixers held Dinwiddie and LeVert to 47 points on 16 of 48.
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