Sixers regular season Bell Ringer standings
James Harden - 2
After getting dominated by the Boston Celtics, and then handing over a very winnable game to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Sixers had a dream shot to snap the losing streak and notch their first win of the young season, but failed to do so. The Spurs were in town, along with Brett Brown, returning to Wells for the first time (at least that we knew of). Joel Embiid really struggled in the opening pair of games, and Doc Rivers mentioned the runner-up MVP is still ramping up conditioning wise after a bout with plantar fasciitis, a heel injury.
One thing we know about any Gregg Popovich team though, they’re going to be well coached, even when the Spurs overall talent isn’t quite up to snuff. The Sixers really haven’t looked well coached so far.
Let’s get to our melancholy Saturday Night Bell Ringer, shall we?
Joel Embiid: 40 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 12-15 FTA
Following in James Harden’s footsteps, putting up a monster individual line in a loss, Embiid played well. But... he still doesn’t look close to the guy we saw last regular season and the first three games of the 2021 playoffs. You have to wonder if he’s really hampered by the plantar thing, as those injuries can nag for some time.
Joel joked that he spent a lot of his summer on the couch, but with two hand surgeries and a broken face on top, maybe he was only partly kidding.
Still, in a softer matchup than Boston or Milwaukee he looked unsurprisingly better vs. the Spurs. In the first half the Spurs couldn’t keep the big fella off the line. He was 7 of 9 to open this one, keeping the pressure on Jakob Poeltl and co. early.
They rode him in the second half, as they preferred that matchup. When they rattled off nine in a row late in the game, Joel was bruising them.
But his energy, and sharpness just isn’t there on defense. He’s also falling more than usual these days too, and it’s getting a bit worrisome.
Is it because he’s compensating for an achey foot, trying not to land on it directly? Is he putting other body parts at risk with each tumble? Some of these falls just seem unnecessary. Slowing down for a layup on one end, or jumping softly in place for a contest rather than a highlight block will probably help keep his legs fresh for the next 79.
Still, it was encouraging to see him turn things around offensively at least. We’re not too worried about him... yet.
Tyrese Maxey: 25 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal
Tyrese Maxey looked spry Saturday, sizing up San Antonio big Jakob Poeltl out on an island after a switch, draining threes, and later diving to the rim against him for free throws.
In the second half, Maxey had a pair of gorgeous lobs to Joel who threw it down each time in the third quarter. Kate Scott noted Joel is more of a “popper” than a “roller.” But ‘Rese set him up for the hammer, beautifully.
James Harden looked electric in the first two games of the year, but he logged 37 and 40 minutes. He played another 40 tonight, as the team has appeared to take a “he never had any hamstring issues” stance, leaning on their 33-year-old. He went just 4 of 18, showing signs of fatigue, so it was good Maxey picked up the slack. Hopefully, they start to really watch his minutes and game totals, as he’s picked up hamstring issues in the past following heavy usage during strings where he’s playing 38 minutes per game.
A rare positive in this game, I really loved Maxey’s focus on being a playmaker for others tonight, as he was making what appeared to be a concerted effort to find Joel, and hit Tucker or Harris in the corners.
One of those lobs:
Tobias Harris: 15 points, 4 boards, 2 dimes
Tobias has been a better first half player than second half player so far this season. He entered the year, surviving trade rumors, but with some other rumors swirling that that he’d like more pick-and-roll opportunities. Well, three games into the season, it doesn’t seem like he’s being accommodated much. That’s not new for him.
Nevertheless, he’s been his typical professional self, trying to get his where he can. But has yet to make a true impact in this limited role. The best version of the Sixers probably toggles him in and out of the lineup with guys like De’Anthony Melton, Matisse Thybulle, or Tyrese Maxey. But Doc has him penciled in as a huge minutes player. I’m just not certain he’s worthy of that these days. He has plenty of unfinished business around the rim. But so far, nobody has really come for his playing time anyway.
A few instances of great ball movement, the ball would swing around the horn and find Harris as the play finisher. They need to spark more of those plays, where Joel draws a double, kicks it out, and then rip it around the horn.
So, how bout those Eagles anyone?
Who is tonight’s bell ringer vs. Spurs?
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