Without Joel Embiid, there isn’t as much excitement for fans going into any given game night. Unfortunately, the Sixers themselves haven’t been able to sustain much success lately without their star, on the losing end of some double-digit losses and blowouts. Tonight’s 111-103 was close throughout, with the Sixers falling just short of closing the gap.
The first half felt like a slog at times. LaMarcus Aldridge was able to flash some of his mid-to-long range game in the first. Kawhi looked unstoppable in the second. Behind those 2 stars, the continuous pummel of pick-and-roll and >60% shooting, the Spurs carried a 58-51 lead into halftime.
One guy not deterred by the Spurs efforts was Jahlil Okafor. With trade rumors swirling, Jah came out playing with some fire. He dominated in the paint in the first half and continued the effort in the second. Regardless of where his future takes him, this is the type of effort that it takes to make him or break him in this league. Tonight he was deliberate, played with his head on a swivel, and made a concerted effort to do damage in all areas in the paint from points to boards.
20 points on 10 shots? 10-11 from the FT line? 8 boards? Fighting and running for boards, blocks and loose balls? Pardon me while I roll out of bed. THAT was a great game, Jah.
The second half felt like an exercise of never-ending catch up. The Sixers made a series of runs to try to cut into the Spurs lead, getting it to one or two possessions. But time and time again Leonard would bury a shot or draw a foul. It felt like they had a chance... but didn’t really have a chance. Finally with 2 minutes to go, Danny Green hit a corner 3 to put 11 and so went the Sixers chances.
It was a competitive game. The Sixers scratched and clawed, but when you’re facing one of the best teams in the league and their best player is on fire (Leonard ended with 32 points, 6 boards and 5 assists... woof), you just have to tip your cap and take a moral victory in keeping it relatively competitive until the end. C'est la vie.
Odds & Ends
- Brett Brown made the decision to shuffle the starting lineup, inserting Gerald Henderson in for Nik Stauskas. With Okafor starting, I think it made a difference having a better defender in Hendo on the perimeter. Also, back-up Stauskas has to be a different guy because starter Stauskas is not as aggressive or effective as this one.
- Covington had a mixed night. It isn’t easy to deal with a defensive assignment as talented as Kawhi Leonard. Sometimes it wasn’t even fair because Leonards length and athleticism just overwhelmed Cov.
- Neither PG had a banner night. TJ fared a bit better than Sergio, I guess? Who has a greener light, Ersan or Sergio?
- Speaking of Ersan, it was one of those nights where his questionable shot selection got the better of him. I appreciate his ability to stretch the floor but boy does he really waste possessions some times. Nonetheless, #GetThatMoneyErsan
- Dario Saric had a real nice night. He’s doing the typical (Non-Embiid) Rookie thing where his game-to-game results are inconsistent. Tonight, he ended with 20 points on 11 shots, 4-5 from beyond the arc, and had some nice passes, too.
- Sixers play tomorrow in Orlando on a second night of a back to back.