Sixers

3 observations after Curry's huge quarter in Sixers' win over OKC

Sixers

The opponent was not quite as acclaimed as the Nets, but the Sixers finished off a victory Sunday night.

After experiencing late-game woes in a loss Friday night to Brooklyn, the Sixers earned a 115-103 win over the Thunder at Paycom Center. 

Seth Curry scored 28 points, 23 in the first quarter. Joel Embiid had 22 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three blocks.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander matched up with fellow Kentucky product Tyrese Maxey and posted 29 points and eight assists for Oklahoma City. 

The 2-1 Sixers will play the Knicks on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, then return to Philadelphia for their next four games.

Here are three observations on the Sixers' win over OKC: 

Curry’s practice-like shooting 

Curry got off to yet another very hot start — although it might be more accurate to just call this the new norm for him — and incredibly was at one point 21 for 27 from the floor this season, 12 for 14 from three-point range. 

It’s appeared as if Curry is putting up practice jumpers, just with perhaps a little more intensity. The defense has hardly ever seemed to impact his form (or the ball going in).

“Honestly, it was nothing new," Curry told reporters in Oklahoma City. “I was getting good shots. It wasn’t like I was (taking) 18-dribble, half-court (shots), 40-footers. It wasn’t like I was on a Steph-type streak. I was just finding good shots. ... I’m going to make those at a high clip. I missed two or three more that I should’ve made, too. It wasn’t really too out of the ordinary, honestly.”

 

A dip in efficiency is inevitable, although Curry has a better shot at a historic, unprecedented sort of year than most. Somewhere around 45 percent from long range is a realistic expectation — and excellent, of course — but maybe Curry’s got something even better in store this season. We’ll see.

The Sixers tried to run offense through Curry as a ball handler after the first quarter, but he couldn’t find as many openings and also missed decent looks. 

Across the board, the Sixers lost some focus during the middle portion of the game, allowing Oklahoma City to keep it competitive. They committed a few costly turnovers late in the second quarter and broke down several times in transition defense. Meanwhile, the Sixers scored no fast-break points.

As a team, the Sixers made 17 of 41 threes. Danny Green was 3 for 5 after three fourth-quarter air balls Friday.

Embiid denying and dishing 

Embiid played through the right knee soreness that’s been an issue since a knee-to-knee collision Wednesday in New Orleans. Andre Drummond and Shake Milton missed the game with right ankle sprains. Ben Simmons (personal reasons) and Grant Riller (left knee injury recovery) were still sidelined, too. 

There were no hints of caution in Embiid’s approach. He looked awfully good (and speedy) dribbling coast to coast and kicking the ball out to Curry for a corner three that gave the Sixers a 6-0 lead. And he rose high to deny Darius Bazley, who made the bold choice to try to dunk over Embiid.

Embiid did a lot other than block attempted poster slams, as his numbers indicate, including hit the open man consistently when double teamed.

“Joel knew that they were going to trap," Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said to reporters. “He never forced it, took his time. ... I thought Joel was every bit as much the point guard tonight as anyone else on the floor. I thought he got Seth shots, he got Danny shots. When he does that he becomes unguardable because if you trap him, we get a three. If you don’t trap him, he scores. That was great, and he saw it. And I loved that he did.”

The Sixers’ spacing around Embiid was sometimes flawed. Maxey (14 points on 4-for-13 shooting) caught the ball on the move and in a no man’s land between the dunker spot and behind the arc on one especially noticeable example of suboptimal spacing. It hasn’t been natural for players like Maxey and Green to occupy the dunker spot — Rivers’ preference — instead of drifting out to the perimeter when Embiid catches the ball. 

The Sixers would also like to have productive movement around Embiid, but for now it seems that honing the fundamentals should be the main priority. He’s certainly passed well, notching 15 assists through three games, so it’s at least not a major concern. 

 

Changing it up at backup center  

Without Drummond, Paul Reed played at center and recorded two points, five rebounds and two assists in 10 minutes. He matched up with Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, a former Villanova Wildcat who’s been able to play immediately for the future-oriented Thunder as a rookie.

Reed had a nice sequence early in the fourth, blocking a shot and then converting a put-back layup shortly after. He set Georges Niang up for a three after grabbing an offensive board, too. 

Another positive for Reed was that he generally rolled hard to the rim, helping clear out space for the Sixers’ shooters. Though one of Reed’s goals this season is to shoot 45 percent or higher from three, he’s currently more valuable as a roller than as a popper.

Niang briefly played at center in the second and fourth but was mostly used as a power forward. He had a nice night, scoring 12 points and nailing 3 of 4 three-point tries. Not at all surprising, but he’s brought far more to the table than Mike Scott.