There was a time not so long ago when there were concerns that the Sixers were too top heavy with their roster.
This season, they look like the deepest team in the world.
Missing multiple players yet again, the Sixers beat the Bulls for the second time this week, 114-105, at United Center Saturday night. The Sixers have won six straight and are now 8-2 and sit alone atop the Eastern Conference. The victory is No. 1,000 in the coaching career of Doc Rivers — and he did it in his hometown of Chicago.
The Sixers were without Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe as all three players are currently in the league’s health and safety protocols. Danny Green (left hamstring tightness) was questionable but was ultimately held out. Ben Simmons (personal reasons) remains out. Paul Reed got his first NBA start.
The Sixers return to the Wells Fargo Center Monday night for a rematch against the Knicks.
Here are a few thoughts from Saturday night’s game.
- Give Rivers credit for this — he’s not afraid to give young players big defensive assignments. On Saturday night, it was Reed who was charged with guarding DeMar DeRozan, who dropped 37 on the Sixers a couple days ago. Shake Milton had the unenviable task of defending Zach LaVine. Much like Wednesday night, the team played strong defense against such a dangerous duo. They were a combined 7 of 19 in the first half.
- Joel Embiid didn’t quite look like himself offensively early. He settled for a lot of midrange shots. He was outstanding from there last season, but it feels like maybe he could be trying to do something different to get him going. He’s been averaging under three turnovers a game to start the season, but turned it over three times in the first quarter alone.
- Both Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey looked good early. Both players had nice drives that created shots for themselves and others. I really like the chemistry between Maxey and Andre Drummond in the pick-and-roll. Maxey had just two points, but had seven assists with no turnovers.
- Neither team shot the ball particularly well early. Enter Furkan Korkmaz. The Turkish wing was questionable coming in with a sore right wrist, but looked just fine burying three straight threes to get the Sixers’ offense going.
- The Sixers’ offense without Embiid and Seth Curry has been pretty ugly. Good timing on a timeout from Doc about midway through the second.
- A couple really nice drives here by Milton and finishes with his left. He’s been really good. He had six points, four rebounds and three assists to zero turnovers at the half.
- ALERT: WE HAVE JOEL EMBIID ROLL! It was a nice pick-and-roll possession with Korkmaz making an accurate bounce pass to a rolling Embiid. It drew a foul on Nikola Vucevic. Next possession Embiid got great position on Vucevic and scored on an easy hook. Followed by a midrange jumper and a three. Uh oh ... the big man might be back.
- Brilliant first half from Korkmaz. He had 14 points, including four threes. The Bulls’ entire bench had 14 points.
- A very, very weird play late in the half. Embiid dribbled a ball off his foot and turned and punched the air in frustration. But in punching the air, he accidentally got some of Lonzo Ball’s hair. Lucky for Embiid — and more so Ball — he didn’t hit him flush. Good job by the officials to simply assess a technical on Embiid. He has to keep his composure to avoid a more serious accident, but he clearly did not intend to hit Ball.
Joel Embiid nearly connected on a haymaker by accident pic.twitter.com/pPsepDyq6H— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 7, 2021
- A step-back three from Embiid and the Sixers go into the half with a 57-47 lead. The All-Star big man had 20 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two blocks before halftime. You can live with five turnovers with that stat line.
- Little bit of a weird start from both teams. After a nice Maxey drive, the Sixers had two live-ball turnovers that turned into fast-break points for the Bulls. Give Reed credit. He was stripped by DeRozan, but was alert a couple possessions later on a put-back dunk that forced a Chicago timeout. Rivers has often talked about Reed just finding the basketball. It’s a great instinct to have. What has to come with that is more discipline.
- Curry’s shot-making has been absurd this season. He hasn’t quite had his typical recent scoring output tonight, but he continues to create and make shots at an impressive level.
- An excellent run from DeRozan to cut the Sixers’ lead to under double digits. Turnovers hurting the Sixers’ offense.
- Lately it’s felt like the Sixers always have an answer whenever their opponent makes a run. Milton with a great finish and an and-one. A couple possessions later, Curry had his own and-one drive. Sixers in general seem to be attacking the rim more in the second half.
- Georges Niang hits a wild three with the shot clock winding down. Tough night for Niang, who hit just 1 of first 8 shots. Could be the result of him having to play so many minutes with so many guys out. Drummond has also had a tough night.
- Korkmaz is unconscious. He has six threes and the sixth was a doozy. Huge night from the Turk.
- Embiid back in with 7:56 left in the fourth and the Sixers hanging on to a 96-89 lead. The Bulls got back into the game with free throws. DeRozan is 6 of 14 from the field but 11 of 12 from the line. Milton fouled LaVine on a three and it seemed to give Chicago life.
- The Bulls went on a 10-0 run to take the lead, 97-96. LaVine has looked spry in the fourth. Embiid then buried a corner three to put the Sixers back up 99-97. Sixers again getting beat up on the offensive glass (17-7) and hurt by turnovers (14) as Derrick Jones Jr. ties it up with a put-back dunk in transition.
- FOURTH-QUARTER FURK! Korkmaz with his seventh three after another big shot from Embiid. Then a big bucket on a midrange shot by Maxey to put the Sixers up four with under two minutes left. Chicago answered on the other end, but Niang who was 2 of 9 before it, buried a huge three to extend the lead to 109-104.
- Wowwwwwwwwww. Joel Embiid buries a three with 15.5 second left to put the Sixers up 112-104. What a dagger. He finished with a season-high 30 points and 15 rebounds. This was easily Embiid’s best offensive performance of the season. Korkmaz was sensational with 25 points and tying his career-high with seven threes. The Bulls shot just 40.2 percent from the field as a team. Just another great team win by the Sixers.