For most teams, winning just two games during a six-game road trip would be considered a failure.
But context matters here.
Missing their entire starting lineup from a season ago, the Sixers scratched and clawed their way to a 102-94 win over the Kings at Golden1 Center Monday night. Through all the injuries, adversity and drama, the Sixers are somehow 10-8 on the season.
Joel Embiid (heath and safety protocols), Tobias Harris (left hip soreness), Seth Curry (back stiffness), and Danny Green (left hamstring tightness) were all out. Ben Simmons (personal reasons) remains out.
But there’s no rest for weary. The Sixers will be in San Francisco to take on the NBA-best Golden State Warriors Wednesday. Mercifully, it’s the last stop on the team’s six-game road trip.
Here are a few observations from the night.
- It didn’t take long for Matisse Thybulle to make an impact in this one. He made two excellent cuts for dunks, got an early steal and did his usual thing wreaking havoc on defense. You really wouldn’t know that Thybulle missed seven games by the way he looked. His improved cutting has been noticeable.
if you weren't awake before, you better be now! pic.twitter.com/KNpfnHytk1— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) November 23, 2021
- It’s no secret that Andre Drummond has had a rough road trip. He got off to a great start in this one. In the first quarter he had six rebounds, three blocks and three assists. He defended the pick-and-roll better that he had the entire West Coast swing. This looked more like the guy we saw earlier in the season.
- The Sixers played outstanding team defense at the start of the game, but De’Aaron Fox, who has struggled this season, hunted for Furkan Korkmaz in mismatches and got going a bit. It also caused Tyrese Maxey to go to the bench early with two quick fouls.
- Buddy Hield started cooking, knocking down four threes. That young man has a flamethrower. His hot run to close the second — and a heavy free throw disparity — helped the Kings build a 33-28 lead after one.
- Maxey checked back into the game and really took it over. His speed is just game-changing. For a 21-year-old to just come in and take over/change the complexion of a game is so impressive. The entire Kings’ team was focused on him ... and he still did his thing.
- Easily Isaiah Joe’s best run of the season. He hit a pair of threes, drew three free throws (and made all three) and also made a nice desperation floater. After such an impressive preseason, Joe struggled to start the regular season. This was encouraging.
- All in all, a pretty strong first half for the shorthanded Sixers. Maxey (12 points) led the way, but Drummond (11 rebounds, three blocks, three assists), Joe (11 points), Thybulle (seven points, three steals, one block) and Shake Milton (10 points) also played well. They were up 55-52 going into the locker room, despite going just 7 of 21 from three and Maxey briefly being forced to sit because of foul trouble.
- After playing the pick-and-roll so well in the first half, the Sixers got burned by former Sixer Richaun Holmes as a roller and future Sixer(?) Tyrese Haliburton as a passer. Both Drummond and Korkmaz struggled in coverage. Holmes was up to 18 points, but was accidentally poked in the eye by Drummond and had to leave the game. Drummond picked up his fourth foul.
- Fox apparently just needed to play the Sixers to get going. He’s had a rough start to the season, but is up to 19 points on 6 of 10 from the field.
- The Sixers’ struggles from three continued. They went just 9 of 29 from distance through three quarters. Their offense also just went totally stagnant against a team that isn’t exactly a defensive juggernaut. Rookie defensive standout Davion Mitchell impacted Maxey which seemed to throw off the team’s offense. Maxey is just 7 of 18 and has missed all four of his threes.
- The Sixers got killed by Tristan Thompson in the third quarter, which maybe made you think it wasn’t your night. The sporadically used vet had eight points and four rebounds in seven minutes.
- The offense was having a tough time. It’s likely because of the weird combination of players Doc Rivers is being forced to play. Maxey played the entire third quarter, so he sat to start the fourth. It felt like Doc was trying to buy him as much time as could. The Kings extended their lead to as much as nine, but the Sixers cut it back down to five with a little over eight minutes left and Maxey checking in.
- Not the best shooting night for Georges Niang, but he’s again doing little things to try to help the Sixers win. He’s had a couple of his unconventional yet effective drives and also drew a charge on Harrison Barnes. Barnes is having a hell of a season and the Sixers largely held him in check.
- Easily Thybulle’s best two-way game of the season. He’s up to 15 points and is glued to Fox down the stretch. The closing lineup looks like the starting unit with Milton replacing Korkmaz. A Milton basket put the Sixers up 91-90 with a little over four minutes left. Milton hit another big bucket moments later.
leaving the defense Shaken. pic.twitter.com/OkgtVlXOGR— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) November 23, 2021
- Wow, what a finish from Drummond here. It’s generally never pretty, but Drummond’s determination down the stretch was huge. A rather funky finish off a Milton pass put the Sixers up 96-92 with 1:35 to go. He’s also outworking Holmes on the glass.
- What terrific effort by the Sixers to win this game. Maxey didn’t have his greatest shooting night (8 of 22) but still finished with 24 points and played a strong two-way game. And it was yet another spotless performance with zero turnovers. Drummond had nine points, 23 rebounds and three blocks. This was a much-needed performance from the veteran big. As mentioned, it was Thybulle’s finest game of the season with 15 points, three steals and a block. Just an awesome team win.