A balanced Sixers attack kept the team neck-and-neck with the Knicks for most of the evening, and crunch-time heroics from Dario Saric and the gang helped the team edge out a 105-102 win against the Knicks on Friday night.
Fresh off one of their worst losses this season, Philadelphia came out with a purpose against New York. They worked through some early adversity — including foul trouble for a surging Saric — and hung in during a splendid first half performance from Carmelo Anthony.
Seven Sixers (heh) hit double digits on the scoresheet, and Saric led the way in the fourth quarter with a brilliant performance in the clutch. The Homie had every excuse to fall out of rhythm after spending long stretches on the bench, but he dug deep into his bag of tricks to earn the Sixers a W, scoring and distributing the team within range of a victory.
Check this dude and his 21-10-4 line out:
Saric also came down with what amounted to the game-winning rebound after Justin Anderson and Robert Covington closed hard on Carmelo Anthony’s attempt to win the game. The sight of two Sixers working hard to stop New York’s isolation scorer, with a third grabbing a rebound in traffic, was representative of the team basketball they played all night.
Really, you have to wonder just how good the Sixers could be if that Saric kid ever decided he was going to come over to play in the NBA.
Welcome to the city, Justin Anderson
The “big return” in the Nerlens Noel trade hadn’t done much to inspire fans prior to tonight’s game, but Anderson made his presence felt against the Knicks.
Labeling Anderson a future “three-and-D” guy might be a disservice to present-day Anderson, though he did knock down a trio of triples tonight. As of right now, he’s a bundle of energy that can either leverage his athleticism for flashy highlights or look downright lost on any given play. Exhibit A:
The Sixers have had plenty of guys that fit that mold the last few seasons, so he’s almost a callback for Process fans. He contributed a little bit of everything — tip slams, made threes, even some irritation of Carmelo Anthony! — and I’ll be happy to root for his improvement if he continues to bust his butt every time he’s on the floor. When the shot is working like it was tonight, it provides optimism for his long-term hopes.
Jahlil Okafor bounces back
Okafor’s defensive struggles were under the national microscope after a highly-publicized incident in Miami on Wednesday, and he did his best to put it behind him with an energetic first half against the Knicks.
If Okafor is going to carve out a role in this league, he needs to improve at least his defense or rebounding skills (and probably both). He attacked the glass with regularity against New York, creating a number of second-chance opportunities with solid positioning and energy, and he was a major positive for the team.
Perhaps more importantly, he got a lot of his buckets without having the offense run through him. Okafor served as an outlet at the rim and capitalized on a number of easy looks, scoring efficiently without bogging down the offense in the post. If he’s going to stick around as a backup, the Sixers will happily take the guy that flashed throughout tonight’s game.
The ebb and flow of Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
TLC has professional experience some of his peers can’t match, but his youth has been exposed at times during his rookie campaign. The young guard is a long way from putting it all together, though Sixers fans have plenty to get excited about in the meantime.
Here’s an example of the good and “bad” he goes through, all in one sequence:
TLC has to tighten up his handle, but like his potential attacking closeouts. Nice move to shake free here. pic.twitter.com/ZljS512AtX— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) March 4, 2017
This is a 50-cent move with a 10-cent finish. Creating separation is one of the hardest things for players to do at the NBA level, and Luwawu’s recognition of when to attack a closeout is a positive sign for his future. When he puts on some weight and works more at finishing off the dribble, he should be a real offensive threat.
The young Frenchman did a little bit of everything tonight, dropping off dimes for Okafor in the paint and attacking the glass when bigger teammates sealed off their men. He’s showing signs of real progress this season, and it’s wonderful to watch.