For the masses who fell asleep before the game’s final buzzer, yes, the Sixers blew a huge third quarter lead to the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. A 19-2 Warriors run that spanned the third and final frame erased the Sixers’ 16-point advantage with 1:54 left in the third quarter.
And since we’re amidst the fourth-straight season where game-by-game results in March don’t necessarily matter, I’m jumping right into player-by-player notes:
TLC put forth a pretty tremendous effort in his fourth career start, compiling a team-best +14 while adding 10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. He’s competing defensively at a far higher level than many draftniks would have anticipated at this point of his career. He knows when and when not to attack closeouts and isn’t afraid to take big shots or attack the giants awaiting him at the rim. His huge three-pointer and strong drive deep in the fourth quarter was really all you needed to see from this kid tonight. He’s a gamer. He’s still just 21 years old. He’s going to be a stud.
The Arizona product flirted with a triple-double with 7 points, 7 rebounds and 10 assists while fellow Wildcat Steve Kerr looked on approvingly. Forget the numbers, though. It remains incredibly impressive how McConnell nightly battles elite point guards on both ends of the floor, consistently manipulates pick-and-rolls to create for his teammates and leads on the floor.
Even still, the man needs to iron on his three-point stroke this offseason. He’s shooting just 22.5% from deep this season after making 34.8% of his outside attempts a year ago, and his hesitancy to pop from beyond the line really suffocated the Sixers’ offense down the stretch. He has to be ready, and able, to shoot from distance. Especially when Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are sharing the floor.
Truly a solid effort from [witty insult redacted]. His 22 points came on an efficient 8-15 shooting, and the majority of those attempts came within the flow of the offense and out of the pick-and-roll. He only managed to grab 6 rebounds, but Okafor was certainly active defensively, and you could especially see his effort boxing out and rotating around the paint — to the tune of 4 blocks.
It’s a nice highlight reel to show potential suitors this offseason, but hopefully teams interested in his services didn’t watch the final 5 minutes, when Okafor needed to retreat to the bench, visibly gassed.
Another miraculous rebounding effort for the swingman this evening, corralling 9. Even though his offense never got rolling, Covington continues to find ways to impact the game on both ends of the floor, and especially wreaked havoc on defense. For more on his incredible defensive development, check out my deep dive on SI.com.
The baby-faced rim protector continues to provide energy off the bench. Holmes always provides entertaining minutes at this stage. He’s either riding a surge of momentum, bringing violence to the rim on both ends, or appears dangerously close to a deer in headlights. He’s perpetually toeing the line between dynamic and disaster and I’m here for every second of it.
I have an inkling the Sixers staff has started splicing some Dirk Nowitzki footage into Saric’s film work. Brett Brown and his development team likes to use established veterans as inspiration for their individualized development plans (remember the Stauskas-as-Ginobili experiment?). There appears to be increasingly more and more high-post, isolation touches baked into the Sixers’ sets, not necessarily as a go-to option, but as a safety-valve. That’s what teams do for established, high-scoring veterans. And this kid is a 22-year-old, instinctual passer.
Saric’s maturation into a crafty NBA scorer this soon is so, so awesome. He’s figured out how to use his size against smaller defenders and quickness against bigger opponents. This expedited learning curve is really, really, mesmerizing. 25 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocks for The Homie.
Saric’s only kryptonite this evening seemed to be Draymond Green, who put on a Defensive Player of the Year-type performance down the stretch. His defense single-handedly held the Sixers scoreless for over 5 minutes during the majority of the Warriors’ 19-2 spurt. He blew up pick and rolls by disturbing pocket passes; he allowed certain ball handlers a step past him, only to poke their handle free, he tallied 6 blocks, ripped down some soul-crushing-possession-ending rebounds that seemed destined for a Sixers’ arms; and he fouled Saric with 2.6 seconds remaining and the Warriors nursing a 3-point lead. It was an ingenious effort, regardless of how you feel about his offensive flails in the final minute.