Can we all settle down, now (at least for one game) after “shushgate”?
In the Philadelphia 76ers final game before the NBA All-Star Break, the home squad had to welcome the Los Angeles Clippers to the Wells Fargo Center in a matchup of what some might have called an NBA Finals preview. (I mean. I guess it still could be.)
Tonight was the first time the Sixers had seen Kawhi Leonard since the “Bounce Heard Across Canada” in last year’s Eastern Conference semi-final match. Combine that with the aura around the team right now, and this could have gone real bad, real fast.
A change in the starting lineup was (finally) made as Brett Brown moved Al Horford to the bench for the first time since his rookie season. In his place was Furkan Korkmaz who was a nominee for Eastern Conference Player of the Week thanks in large part to him scoring 65 points in his last 61 minutes of basketball.
With Horford on the bench, the Sixers opened with Korkmaz, Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid. The most evident on-the-floor change in the team’s offense: s p a c i n g! (I would just like to emphasize the spacing.)
There was lots of room in the half court for players like Harris to do his thing early scoring 11 points in the first quarter including two on this delicious serving of yams to several members of the Clippers who were in the wrong place at the wrong time:
(I’ll be quite honest. I was surprised by that. I was not aware Tobias had those “bunnies”.)
Horford on the bench proved to come in handy as Embiid picked up two early fouls after just four points in the first few minutes. Horford’s first basket? A shush-free three pointer. With Embiid on the bench, Horford played his more natural 5-position and stepped in nicely on defense helping to hold the Clippers to 39.1% from the field and 22 points.
You can only keep Kawhi asleep for so long as he got going in the second quarter hitting back-to-back three pointers (one in Embiid’s eyeballs) during a 15-4 Clippers run in the period. Leonard was 6/9 in the quarter for 15 points, and the only reason it was tied at 54 is because there was more space for Ben Simmons to do Ben Simmons things (16/3/3; 54% FG).
The Sixers continued to be fluid on offense to start the second half as the team went on a 23-11 run to open the third that included to Embiid three pointers. Former Sixers guard Landry Shamet (11 points, 3/4 from three) kept the Clippers close as he was high man in the quarter for a team that had not seen a glimmer of good things from the other person in the star powered duo, Paul George.
George was a nasty 2/12 from the field through the first three periods, but he started to pick up a little bit in the fourth scoring the Clippers first five points. The fourth quarter belonged to Josh Richardson – who played 31 minutes and scored 17 of his 24 points in the final 12 minutes. No one for Los Angeles had an answer as the team shot 9/22 in the final period as the Sixers pulled away and ultimately won 110-103.
There were other fireworks – ones not being emitted from Josh Richardson’s hands. Joel Embiid and Marcus Morris got in a bit of a kerfuffle late in the fourth which led to Embiid absolutely erasing Morris from this plane of existence. The erasure sparked a fast break that ended with a Matisse Thybulle three pointer that iced the game.
So, to summarize:
Sixers won again at home. They’re 25-2 at Wells Fargo.
They beat the other Los Angeles team – a team they are 6-1 against in their last seven meetings.
We all good, right, fam?
Brett Brown fist bumps Joel Embiid pic.twitter.com/fv7UBlgbTP— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) February 12, 2020
Yup. We good.