The charismatic personalities of Joel Embiid and DeMarcus Cousins couldn’t be contained in the Sixers’ 102-100 loss over the Sacramento Kings Monday. With Cousins manning the power forward position and Joel Embiid slotted at the 4, viewers got to witness a fiery matchup. Early in the game, the two talented big men butted heads in a bizarre sequence.
Joel Embiid and DeMarcus Cousins slapping each other's butts. https://t.co/K3mNQJ7qRq— Jake Hyman (@RealJakeHyman) December 27, 2016
The Embiid-Cousins showdown produced entertaining basketball, with both players’ offensive arsenals illuminated in the matchup. There were instances when the gifted big men used brute force and finesse by spacing the floor. In the first half, Cousins was incensed to show his dominance over Embiid, attempting multiple tough shots against the 7-foot-2 big man.
With the minutes restriction impacting Embiid in the second half, Cousins continued his imposing style against the rest of the Sixers roster, finishing with 30 points (10-of-20 shooting), seven rebounds and three steals. What stood out was Embiid not giving in to Cousins in the first half. The rookie didn’t look fazed by the multiple-time All-Star, continuing to attack Cousins off the dribble.
Overall, Embiid produced a team-high 25 points (8-of-17), eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks. His control handling the basketball again was suspect, as he lost his balance dribbling at times. Embiid’s vision when doubled is impressive, but he can get careless when he’s set on scoring. His impact of the game was unparalleled among Sixers players. Cousins, after the game, showed his admiration for “The Process.”
DeMarcus Cousins says Joel Embiid has a chance to be the best big in the league...after he retires pic.twitter.com/yarVdUWOiS— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) December 27, 2016
You take what you can get from Boogie. It was definitely high praise from one of the league’s top big men.
Embiid wasn’t the only Sixer big producing; Dario Saric had one of his best 12-minute runs to date in the second half Monday. He finished runners, left-hand layups and was drilling triples in the third quarter to the tune of 12 points. Dealing with inconsistency throughout the season, Saric had a favorable advantage tonight against Anthony Tolliver. He also was active on the glass, helping out teammates for boards and corralling aplenty (eight). He didn’t score in the fourth quarter, but his presence helped spark a necessary run in the second half.
As a long-term piece, respectable shooting performances from Saric hold serious value. Following the game, he noted that he made a change in his approach. From a rookie, it speaks volumes to Saric’s willingness to adapt and make necessary adjustments. Even in a loss, that’s paramount.
Nerlens Noel only received three minutes and contributed three points off the bench. The Sixers (7-23) will take on the Utah Jazz Thursday in their next matchup. Here’s to hoping the rotational flux sorts out soon.
- Jahlil Okafor’s minutes allocation has to be monitored moving forward, especially in the second half. It’s been a common occurrence when both Embiid and Noel aren’t in and teams exploit the interior, drawing fouls and piling points from two. Okafor, early, was using his natural girth to get ideal positioning on Cousins, scoring six points on 3-of-5 shooting. Faltering in the second half on both sides of the ball, his regression made you naturally hope to see Noel get an opportunity. In a two-point loss, that tip-in by Okafor at the Sixers basket was important.
- Along with Joel Embiid, Sergio Rodriguez had a positive net rating in Monday’s game. Contributing 18 points and having an efficient night passing the ball (five assists to just two turnovers), “El Chacho” put pressure on the Kings guards all night. He nailed two clutch triples late in the game that gave the Sixers leads, something he’ll have to sustain long-term as a versatile point guard.
- Overall, tonight was as sloppy of an NBA game as you’ll see. The two teams combined for 41 turnovers, as passes whizzing by players, poor awareness from players and unfinished possessions kept the score from bloating. It’s been a consistent issue plaguing the Sixers and it was an inopportune time for excessive turnovers to transpire.