The Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets matched up on Friday night for a game that was mostly... well, pointless. The Sixers have been locked into the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference for a few days now, meaning their seeding would not change at all with a win or loss. The Rockets — on the other hand — would face off against Chris Paul and Oklahoma City Thunder no matter what. The only thing that Houston would be playing for is “home court advantage” in the Orlando Bubble.
The Sixers started off the first quarter smoldering from behind the arc; converting on six of their nine attempted 3-pointers. Furkan Korkmaz provided a large spark off the bench with 10 points in the quarter. It would be a welcome sight for the Sixers to have the Furkan that can’t miss a jump shot going into the playoffs. They’ll need some scoring punch off the bench with a lack of Ben Simmons.
As the game progressed into the second quarter, we really got a feel for the Sixers’ approach heading into this game: give Joel Embiid the ball and get out of the way. It’s the same approach they’ll likely have matching up against a Celtics team with little size around the rim.
The Sixers had their hot shooting continue throughout the first half with players like Tobias Harris, Alec Burks, and Raul Neto chipping in offensively. The Rockets couldn’t keep up with the Sixers’ hot perimeter shooting and size down low, leading to the Sixers (not known for being the best offensive team ever) scoring 71 points by halftime.
It was another game in which the Al Horford/Joel Embiid pairing didn’t look incredibly painful to watch. Having three willing shooters next to the big man pairing has really helped them out throughout the duration of the bubble. Horford knocking down his 3s and looking more like his Celtics self doesn’t hurt.
If the Houston Rockets are known for one thing nowadays, it’s shooting and scoring the ball. They did both of those things in the third quarter, which ultimately led them to cutting the Philadelphia lead from 24 down to 11.
It turns out the former MVP James Harden is pretty good at basketball, after all. He caught fire in the third quarter and managed to amass an impressive stat-line of 27 points and 10 assists in only 25 minutes of play. Sixers rookie Matisse Thybulle did show some impressive defensive flashes on the offensive mastermind:
Matisse Thybulle with the poke-away steal on James Harden pic.twitter.com/lK9t5Rs7FT— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) August 15, 2020
Thybulle finished the game with a very impressive four steals and two blocks in less than 18 minutes of play. His defensive impact will be incredibly important in limiting the Eastern Conference’s multitude of wing talent with Ben Simmons being out.
Both teams managed to wave a theoretical white flag about halfway through the third quarter, however. Joel Embiid, James Harden, and the majority of both starting lineups were benched for the rest of the evening to keep them fresh for the upcoming playoffs. The Sixers’ bench unit went on a small run to keep the Houston Rockets a COVID-19-approved arm’s length away.
Surprisingly, the Sixers did a good job at holding their lead over Houston. There was never a moment where it ever felt like the game or lead was in doubt. The bench unit did what they were supposed to do and hung on to end the 2019-20 NBA regular season with a W. Eight Sixers finished the game in double-digit scoring, representing an all-around good effort from the team.
I also feel obliged to mention how well the Sixers’ bench unit has performed over the past few games, including against the Rockets. Players such as Kyle O’Quinn, Raul Neto, Mike Scott, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, and Alec Burks all had their moments throughout the bubble games. The confidence they should have gained over time can be very beneficial to the team in their upcoming series against Boston.
This game was also the final variable in determining where the Philadelphia 76ers will pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. For those who haven’t heard, the Sixers’ top-20 protected OKC first-round pick will convey for the upcoming draft. The Philadelphia 76ers, Utah Jazz, and Houston Rockets will have coin flips to determine the order through picks 21, 22, and 23. The Draft Lottery will be held on this upcoming Thursday, August 20.
The Sixers are officially in #PlayoffMode. The first game of their first-round matchup against the Boston Celtics tips off on Monday (August 17) at 6:30 PM. The roster will be well-rested heading into the matchup with all of their starters playing minimal minutes in the past few games.