The Sixers have finally hit their first true rough patch of the 2020-21 NBA season. The three-game losing streak that occurred earlier in the calendar year could easily be brushed off due to the team’s COVID-induced absences, but the recent stretch of three defeats in four games has shown some causes for concern.
Namely, the defense has floundered in stretches against the capable shooters of the Phoenix Suns and the Portland Trail Blazers, while at the same time, the bench units have disappointed due to an utter dearth of floor-spacing with Shake Milton being out of action most of the past week.
The Sixers need for more shooting in their bench-heavy units, explained: pic.twitter.com/hKdEKnnaqY— Daniel Olinger (@dan_olinger) February 14, 2021
But I’m not here to lecture you on how the sky is falling and how last year’s Sixers had a superior record this far into the season. There was a sequence of three plays within four consecutive possessions in the middle of the third quarter that caught my eye to the degree that they deserved to be highlighted for the #positivevibes.
Play No. 1
The Sixers start in one of their most common alignments with Simmons and Embiid at the elbows, Danny Green and Seth Curry spacing to the outside, and Tobias Harris looking to seal his man on the inside for a potential lob post entry. The first look isn’t there, so they immediately flow into the Embiid pindown for Harris. Mikal Bridges chases over, and thanks to an excellent screen from the big fella, Tobi is given space to correctly read for an open curl. The Suns defense collapses, and the end result is a clear-as-day look for one of the greatest catch-and-shoot marksmen in NBA history. Dope.
Play No. 2
After an empty possession where no true flow developed in the Sixers’ half court offense, they go to an inverse of the same concept from the first play. Simmons is passing from out top, and Embiid’s hulking body forces Mikal to trail Harris as he again curls toward the rim, and his attempt at a Thybulle-esque rearview contest gets him whistled for a shooting foul.
Bridges was pretty miffed with the call, entrenched in the belief that he got it clean. It wasn’t the most complex or calculated possession, and Bridges may have a point in his objection, but quick, foul-drawing offense is good offense nonetheless.
Play No. 3
Nearly a frame-for-frame recapturing of Play No. 1 up until the end, where Harris goes into the short curl and makes a brilliant quick decision. Danny Green is making the “Danny Green cut” across the baseline, Simmons and Curry are lined up parallel to each other, blocking any potential pass to the 50 percent, 3-point sniper, and Ayton is staying back ever so slightly to ward off a potential lob to Embiid. Tobi processes all of this instantly and determines that a catch-and-shoot elbow jumper for him is what the Suns have conceded on this play, and he rises without hesitation. He’s also helped by not having the long-armed Bridges tailing him, as Devin Booker’s contest does next to nothing on this play.
The Sixers proceeded to get outscored 47-35 throughout the remainder of the game en route to the 120-111 loss, and despite Harris finishing an impressive 7-of-9 from the floor, many were correctly perturbed with his zero 3-point attempts in nearly 37 minutes of play. The 6-foot-8 forward has only hit six of his last 22 attempts from behind the arc over a course of seven games, and though his play hasn’t fallen off a cliff, it’s started to slow ever so slightly.
But it’s a long season, and one in which Tobias has often been a great bright spot for the Sixers, and those three fun plays that happened in Phoenix are another example of some fun and enjoyable basketball he brings to the floor every night.