That there, my friends, was the full Sixers experience.
A sluggish start, followed by a normalizing solid-stretch. A dominant and balanced performance from Joel Embiid. A double-digit second-half lead that evaporated in the blink of an eye. Porous defense throughout.
In walks our hero, Shake Milton, who drilled an uncovered three-pointer with 6 seconds to go, to put the Sixers ahead by one. Most fitting, of course, would’ve been DeMar DeRozan hitting a game-winner on the other end as the bell rung, but thankfully we were spared of that fate, and the Sixers head back to their incubation rooms as winners, tonight.
For the Sixers, the aforementioned strong performance from Embiid manifested itself in a line of 27/9/5/1 — a solid sequel to his 40/20 performance on Saturday night. Milton ended the game with 16 points, 5 rebounds and three assists to go with his game-winner and bloody lip from moments earlier. Josh Richardson had an inefficient game but was far more willing to assert himself offensively than he was during a complete no-show game on Saturday, totaling 19 points. Tobias Harris had another solid performance, following his 30 points on Saturday night with 25 tonight. Al Horford, like Milton, bounced back from a deflating outing against the Pacers, and ended the game a team-high +17 in 32 minutes of action.
Sadly, on the downside, this was the second consecutive less-than-stellar performance from Ben Simmons. The power forward (?) was hamstrung by foul trouble all night long, and collected his sixth and final foul in the fourth quarter after only 25 minutes of play. Even before the foul trouble, though, Simmons did little to make an imprint on this one. His defense was once again pretty shoddy — this time being victimized quite often by DeRozan in the midrange. Offensively, Ben was typically adept in transition but rather quiet in the halfcourt. After the purported ‘paradigm shift’ in his three point willingness that arose in practices in Orlando, Simmons has shot nary a three in either of the regular season games, so far.
DeRozan led the Spurs, offensively, with 30 points. He was joined in his efforts by solid scoring performances from Rudy Gay (24) and Derrick White (20).
Another positive from the Sixers in this one was the team’s demeanor. An on-court argument between Embiid and Milton disquieted fans during Saturday’s loss; but tonight all seemed well in Sixersland. Embiid and Milton interacted quite a bit, including a midair hi-five shared between the two following Milton’s big shot.
Mysteriously missing in Orlando, thus far, is the Sixers vaunted bully-ball defense. Allowing more than 120 points to depleted Indiana and San Antonio squads ought to sound some alarms for Brett Brown and co. Here’s hoping they take out some defensive frustration on Wednesday versus Washington.
Thank God they won.