On the road, the Sixers have lost six games in a row. At Wells Fargo Center, they’re still tough to beat.
They topped the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night, 117-106, to move to 19-2 at home, 26-16 overall.
They’ll play the Chicago Bulls on Friday (7 p.m./NBCSP).
Here are observations on the win:
Simmons attacks early
Ben Simmons scored six of the Sixers’ first nine points in Dallas on Saturday and eight of their first 17 in Indiana on Monday.
“I thought in the first half [Monday] there was a dominant, tank mentality where he was going to dunk on anybody that was in front of him,” Brett Brown said pregame of Simmons.
That early aggression is encouraging and Simmons maintained it Wednesday, scoring 10 of his team’s opening 18. It helped that the Sixers forced five early Nets turnovers and played fast when possible.
As they had in their first meeting, Brooklyn played off Simmons to an extreme degree, and the Sixers often countered by calling “12,” with a wing running up from the baseline to either give Simmons a ball screen or receive a handoff. The action had mixed results, but Simmons was generally very good at powering through contact and quickly eating up the open space the Nets gave him.
In the fourth quarter, Furkan Korkmaz (15 points) made a three go-ahead three when, as the Nets prepared for a Simmons drive off “12,” the Australian point guarded handed it to his open teammate.
Simmons finished with 20 points, 15 of which came before halftime, and 11 assists.
Harris comes through in the clutch
The Sixers received contrasting offensive contributions from their starters outside of Simmons.
Tobias Harris was decisive and sharp, scoring a game-high 34 points on 20 shots.
He was also massive late. Harris made a contested three from the left wing to put the Sixers up 109-104.
He then scored on the Sixers’ next two possessions, including a floater that gave the Sixers a nine-point lead and basically sealed the game.
Al Horford struggled for most of the night, missing a heap of open looks on his way to a 4-for-14 shooting performance.
Josh Richardson had 15 points (5 for 12 shooting).
Holding down Irving
The Sixers (and Richardson in particular) guarded Nets star Kyrie Irving very well, holding him to 14 points on 6 for 21 shooting.
However, Spencer Dinwiddie (26 points) and Jarrett Allen (17 points, 7 of 8 shooting) did have success in the pick-and-roll.
Brown said pregame that Sixers would “double down” on wanting to increase their volume of three-point attempts, even after hitting only 15 of 70 threes (21.4) over their last two games.
The Sixers shot 11 for 30 from three vs. the Nets, a significant improvement in efficiency.
‘I want to try to grow Matisse’
Matisse Thybulle started Wednesday, taking Mike Scott’s place. Scott had gone 3 of 14 from three-point range over his last three starts.
It was easy to see the logic in that decision, and Thybulle had several bright moments, including a rejection of a Joe Harris jumper in the first quarter followed by a layup on the resulting fast break. In the second quarter, he had one of his trademark “rearview” blocks on Irving, then sprinted down the floor, found his spot in the left corner and sunk a three.
Other rotation decisions were more interesting. James Ennis was the fifth bench player to check in for the Sixers, but he played 15 minutes — in part because of Thybulle picking up his fourth foul early in the third — and posted six points and five rebounds. He hadn’t played against Indiana, which Brown said before the game was primarily about a desire to develop the rookie Thybulle.
“I want to try to grow Matisse,” he said. “And at some point, you say, ‘Am I going to play 10 or nine?’ The lion’s share of some of James’ minutes were shifted over to Matisse. I don’t believe it’s something that you’re going to see a steady diet of. I wanted to try it, I did. Probably what you should hear most clearly is I want to try to grow Matisse more.”
Ennis doesn’t have a standout skill besides perhaps his offensive rebounding, but he’s been a dependable player for the Sixers, someone they can get decent playing time from in most situations. With the current roster, he should certainly be a stable part of the rotation.
Raul Neto got the backup point guard minutes over Trey Burke, as he had in the second half vs. the Pacers, and recorded four points in seven minutes.
Norvel Pelle served as the team’s backup center until the Sixers briefly went with a Harris-Scott frontcourt late in the third quarter against an ultra-small Brooklyn lineup.
The NBA days left on Pelle’s two-way deal are nearly up and the Sixers have elected not to convert him to an NBA contract at the moment because they want to preserve flexibility ahead of the Feb. 6 trade deadline (see story).
Embiid starts working his way back
Joel Embiid, after undergoing surgery Friday in New York for a torn ligament in his left hand, was back in Philadelphia and went through pregame conditioning drills, as well as doing form shooting with one hand.
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