Philadelphia’s 47-point first quarter didn’t lead to a Sixers win against the prohibitive favorites for the 2018 NBA Championship, but it signified how important accruing valuable young players is for a franchise. Going toe-to- toe with Golden State just two years ago on the backs of Ish Smith and Isaiah Canaan felt like eons ago. With Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Robert Covington and Dario Saric overwhelming the Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry led Warriors in the first half, there were some silver linings in the 124-116 loss.
Ben Simmons rebounded from a 5-for- 17 shooting effort last week, with four turnovers, against the Warriors with an incredibly balanced performance. Simmons finished an and-1 against Draymond Green on a hook and used a finger roll to torch Andre Iguodala in iso, no slouches as defenders. His behind-the- back following a catch along the perimeter and straight line finish on a switch-hand layup spotlighted his versatility with the ball in his hands. Simmons’ fluidity, keeping his live dribble, and burst produced some optimal looks around the basket, missing one jumper and shooting 8-for- 8 in close range attempts through the first half.
Jaws likely dropped when he lost Omri Casspi on the spin move. Brett Brown didn’t feature Simmons as much through most of the third quarter, when Golden State started mounting their inevitable comeback. However, the rookie started creating for himself during the final quarter. He converted four attempts near the basket in the fourth while converting an and-1 with his right driving on Shaun Livingston, to finish with 23 points on 11-of- 15 shooting.
Simmons’ 12 assists came from a variety of different feeds and the rookie conducted one of the Sixers’ best offensive halves in recent memory. Kicking out to shooters for optimal looks, dumping it down to Embiid and Saric, while finding an effective Richaun Holmes near the basket, and hitting Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot on two backdoor cuts in the fourth, Simmons naturally looked the part of the best pure point guard on the floor tonight. He also contributed eight rebounds in the losing effort. Simmons only recorded one turnover and has just two over his last 77 minutes.
Amidst the Warriors’ second-half eruption leading to their 12th win, Simmons looked incredibly comfortable creating for himself and teammates Joel Embiid endured a tale of two very different halves. For the team’s first points, Simmons hit Embiid in stride for a powerful one-hand dunk. He hit an open three, overpowered Green and Zaza Pachulia in the post and avoided the turnover plague with quick-hitting kick-outs. However, the Warriors turned their pressure up a couple of notches in the second half. Turnovers kill offensive rhythm and the 7’2” big man accumulated them in the second half. Embiid finished with five. Embiid totaled 21 points on 7-for- 16 shooting, eight rebounds and three assists. He recorded just one block, but wasn’t the primary culprit for the Warriors shooting 54.3 percent (50-92).
Stephen Curry finished 11-for- 22 from the floor, but the Sixers held him relatively at check during the first half. The former MVP entered unleashed mode, finally hitting his jumpers in the second half to finish with 35 points. Kevin Durant joined him to overwhelm with blow-by drives of Sixers forwards and hitting his mid-range attempts. Durant led the charge last Saturday with 29 points and had 27 points tonight.
The Warriors shot just 30.4 percent (7-for- 23) from three, but David West (14 PTS, 7-for- 8 FG), Draymond Green (eight points, 4-for- 6 FG), and Zaza Pachulia (10 PTS, 4-for- 6 FG) contributed with efficient shooting performances from within the arc. Additional Takeaways:
- T.J. McConnell forced the Warriors into some turnovers in the first half but failed to contribute during the second half. Golden State went on a 29-17 run with McConnell on the floor during the third quarter. Curry’s offensive effect was too much for the active point guard.
- Dario Saric and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot shot a collective 11-for- 29 tonight, but their effort on both ends needs to be mentioned. Saric fought on the offensive glass and TLC made himself available for Simmons while battling with Golden State’s wings.
- JJ Redick forced Klay Thompson to defer many times when on an island and provided some offensive punch (20 PTS, 8-for- 16 FG, 2-for- 4 3PFG). Redick didn’t have the physical advantage, but exerted enough effort to help limit Thompson to 17 PTS and 7-for- 17 shooting.
The Sixers (8-7) host the Utah Jazz Monday at 7:00 p.m.