Sixers

3 observations after Steph Curry scores 49 in shorthanded Sixers' loss

Sixers

The older Curry brother stole the show Monday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Stephen Curry’s Warriors beat the Sixers, 107-96. He was brilliant, scoring 49 points on 14-for-28 shooting (10 for 17 from three-point range) in the win.

Seth Curry scored all 15 of his points for the Sixers in the first half. 

Joel Embiid led the team with 28 points on 8-for-21 shooting, 13 rebounds and eight assists.

Ben Simmons (illness) and Tobias Harris (right knee soreness) were out. 

The 39-18 Sixers’ next game is Wednesday night vs. the Suns. Here are three observations on their loss to the Warriors: 

A first-half Curry brothers shootout 

Out of all the candidates to defend Stephen Curry with Simmons sidelined, Seth Curry was not the first that came to mind.

He drew the initial assignment on the Western Conference’s reigning Player of the Week, though, and he was decisively better than his brother in the opening few minutes of their matchup.

The Sixers’ Curry drained a pull-up jumper for the game’s first points, and he converted a confident three-pointer in transition to give the team a 7-0 lead. 

With his steal of a behind-the-back pass from the two-time MVP and ensuing fast-break layup, the Sixers earned a 12-0 edge. 

Matisse Thybulle had early issues when he checked in to guard Curry, who appeared fully aware of the 24-year-old’s knack for spectacular steals and blocks. On one impressive first-quarter play, Curry sprinted around a screen, pump faked, waited for Thybulle to fly past him and then drained a three. 

 

Thybulle’s night improved from there. He provided his typical off-ball defensive spark and posted 13 points, seven rebounds, three steals and a block.

Curry is a unique player with special talents. He punished the Sixers’ mistakes — players getting caught on ball screens, giving him driving lanes, etc. — and the margin for error was very slim with Simmons out. Heading into Monday’s game, Curry had averaged 40.4 points and shot 49.6 percent from three-point range over his last eight contests, so this was relatively routine for him.

Damion Lee, the Currys’ brother-in-law, scored 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting. Not a bad evening for the Curry family as a whole, even though the 33-year-old brother was the obvious star.

“He’s a once in a lifetime type of player," Thybulle said.

Embiid vs. Warriors' small ball

Monday night was useful practice for Embiid against both small-ball lineups and double teams.

With James Wiseman out for the season due to a right meniscus tear, Golden State started 6-foot-9 Kevon Looney and played 6-foot-6 Draymond Green at backup center. Facing regular double teams is now essentially an every-game occurrence for Embiid, who drew 14 free throws but often was forced to respond to aggressive help defense by searching for an open teammate or taking a difficult jumper. The Warriors understandably wanted to avoid true 1-on-1 situations. 

Embiid has studied Dirk Nowitzki’s game and has tools reminiscent of the 14-time All-Star.

He had several nice cross-court feeds and generally identified the right pass quickly. Still, the Warriors guarded him just about as well as they could have and stopped Embiid down the stretch. Looney grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds. 

“It was frustrating," Embiid said. “I just thought I made the right play every single time. If they’re going to guard me like that, I’ve got to trust my teammates and make the right play. All night they sent two, three guys at me, and I thought I did a pretty good job of passing it.”

Hill’s Sixers debut 

George Hill checked in with 3:05 left in the first period, his first NBA minutes since Jan. 24 after an extensive rehab process following right thumb surgery. As one would expect, he wasn’t his sharpest. A lob to Dwight Howard that would perhaps have been fine for an 11-foot player was one sign that it had been a long time since his last game. 

Hill’s rust and Simmons and Harris’ absences meant we didn’t learn a ton about how exactly the veteran guard will fit in the Sixers’ rotation. He mostly shared the floor with Shake Milton, Thybulle and Howard, playing away from the ball. 

Tyrese Maxey contributed positively for a second straight game, scoring eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter. Milton had a rough outing, shooting 1 for 7 from the floor.

Head coach Doc Rivers used Hill as one of the Sixers' many defenders on Curry, and he had some success on him in the third quarter. Curry shot 1 for 8 overall in the period. If nothing else, mirroring Curry’s non-stop movement likely got Hill’s heart racing. The Sixers see Hill as a player who they’ll be able to trust defensively late in playoff games, and we saw glimpses Monday of why they hold that view.

 

“... He wanted the assignment," Rivers said. “He said, ‘I won’t be great offensively. I haven’t played. But I can try to do my best defensively.’ I don’t think anybody did a great job. We didn’t do a great job. I thought we could’ve guarded him differently but really, we were flat tonight.

“I didn’t feel any energy offensively. If you said before the game that they were going to score 107 points and shoot (44.7) percent, you probably would’ve taken it. But when we shoot (39.3 percent) and only have 96 (points), it’s hard to win a game in the NBA these days.”

Rivers said pregame that the Sixers would “try to ease (Hill) in.” He played 17 minutes Monday, posting two points on 1-for-5 shooting, two rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Though Hill clearly isn't at his peak level, the fact that he's cleared to play and has time to find his footing before the playoffs is good for the Sixers in the big picture.