After a rough double overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday, the Philadelphia 76ers (4-12) faltered offensively against the Chicago Bulls (10-6) losing 105-89. Joel Embiid’s absence had a profound impact on both sides of the ball for the Sixers, who struggled to score down low and protect the paint.
Chicago shot a tepid 6-for-21 from deep tonight, but regularly attacked the basket and finished with a collective 44.4% from the floor. In Jahlil Okafor’s showcase game as a starting center tonight, his glaring flaws became illuminated. He continuously forgot to pick and make contact in the P&R, got outmuscled on the boards by Robin Lopez and others, and his effort failed to match Embiid’s.
He finished with 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting tonight, but it’s the areas of the game fans hoped he’d improve on in the offseason that he’s yet to advance. His frontcourt mate Ersan Ilyasova provided the hustle and intensity necessary to combat the tough, physical Bulls bigs.
Ilyasova lacks the build and athleticism you’d like a starting 4 to have, but he compensates his deficiencies with infectious effort. Taking charges, sticking onto rim running bigs and crash the glass with authority is making Ilyasova a guy you naturally root for. He finished with another productive offensive performance, scoring a team-high 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Head coach Brett Brown has a legitimate offensive weapon in the stretch four.
Providing another asset, Jerryd Bayless made his first start tonight as a Sixer and had a relatively productive outing finishing with 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting. He had some passing gaffs and struggled with rotation and containment. Similarly Gerald Henderson had a tough night handling Chicago’s wings, as Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler had 26 points apiece. Coupled with his frigid shooting performance (2-for-7), his struggles led way to Nik Stauskas receiving minutes.
Lets take a moment to admire what “Sauce Castillo” has accomplished in November. He had another proficient night offensively. He added 13 points off the bench and was efficient once again (5-of-9 shooting). Fellow two-gaurd Hollis Thompson had one incredible left-hand reverse layup off the backboard and his shooting from deep was flawless 3-for-3). The two have been consistent contributors off the bench and have played into garnering consistent minutes from Brown.
Robert Covington contributed zero points tonight in another abhorrent shooting effort and like many of his teammates, couldn’t contain the Wade-Butler duo. He’ll have a daunting challenge Sunday against LeBron James when the Sixers host the Cleveland Cavaliers.
- In transition, the Sixers have a chance to keep up with prolific offenses. Nik Stauskas has been a track star recently in games, leaking in transition and running the floor. He’s always packed some athleticism and he’s finally using it consistently in the 2016-17 season. Saric also seems to be ahead of his man in transition but doesn’t have the awareness yet to make a coherent choice on what he wants to do. With Nerlens Noel and Ben Simmons returning inevitably, Brett Brown could let his youth pace the floor and refrain from utilizing substantial half court sets.
- With Bayless in the fold and offering more offensively, T.J. McConnell’s long-term prospects look bleak. Bayless showed creativity offensively tonight and with more weapons around him in the future, he’ll have a heightened position on the roster. Sergio Rodriguez is streaky, but McConnell hasn’t done enough offensively (0-for-2 shooting tonight) to push for consistent minutes.
- It might be reactionary, but Stauskas is making a strong case to start in the future. With Ben Simmons inevitably seeking a guy to kick out to with the ball and run the break with, slotting Stauskas at the starting 2 wouldn’t be farfetched. He has more upside than Henderson, still on his rookie contract and possessing more athleticism, and will fit in their long-term plans with consistent proficient performances.
- Richaun Holmes just makes an impression whenever he’s on the court. He was absent for a stretch, but he looked more formidable and showed more energy than Okafor tonight. Okafor’s lack of energy and inconsistencies defensively have been well-documented. Holmes has no issue in that regard. He also contributed more points than the former first-round pick (13). It’s time to reward Holmes.