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Sixers lose to scorching hot McCollum, West-best Pelicans

CJ McCollum went off and the Sixers’ defense was not up to the task against the red-hot Pelicans Friday night.

Philadelphia 76ers v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

The Sixers dropped their second game in a row when they fell 127-116 to the top-seeded New Orleans Pelicans.

Despite 37 points from Joel Embiid and the return of Tyrese Maxey, CJ McCollum had 42 points as he made a career-high 11 three-pointers and Zion Williamson poured in 36 points of his own as the Sixers turned in one of their worst defensive performances of the season.

Here are some instant takeaways from the loss.

First Quarter

  • What intrigued me about this matchup was how the Sixers would attack the paint, given that New Orleans employs one of the stronger centers in the league in Jonas Valanciunas. Joel Embiid did not seem to mind, as he had a 15-point first quarter on 6 of 7 shooting.
  • Just like the first quarter in Washington, most Sixers not named Embiid struggled from the field. Every other Sixer shot 4 of 16 to start the game as the Pelicans took a four-point lead into the second.
  • The all-bench units have been a disaster closing the first quarter, and tonight was no different despite the integration of Tyrese Maxey. Maxey had a couple soft misses from three, but also had some rust that caused some ugly turnovers. These lineups continue to allow teams to go on long runs that just feel preventable.

Second Quarter

  • Tyrese Maxey’s first NBA basket in approximately six weeks
  • Funky Sixers lineups aside, the Sixers had no match for Zion Williamson physically. The former No. 1 overall pick had 16 points in the first half, especially terrorizing the bench unit.
  • It would only get uglier for the Sixers as New Orleans dominated all aspects of the game. Thirteen Sixers turnovers led to 22 fast break points for the Pelicans. They also shot a scorching 58.8 percent from downtown in the half, with CJ McCollum making seven in the first half alone. The Sixers struggled to see their shots fall, shooting 34.8 percent from downtown in the first half.
  • On top of all of this, the NBC Sports Philadelphia broadcast was STRUGGLING during the second quarter. Perhaps it was a sign that the Sixers just needed to turn themselves off and then back on, as they ended the half on a 14-4 run. They trailed by as much as 17 but went into the break only down seven.

Third Quarter

  • The second half started just as the first one did, with Joel Embiid mauling everything in his path. He scored 10 of the Sixers’ first 13 to start the half. His performance kept Philly hanging around in a game they had no business being in.
  • Just like Embiid, CJ McCollum showed no signs of slowing down out of the break, either. A little over halfway through the third, he made his ninth three, which tied a career high. The Pelicans took an eight-point lead into the fourth.
  • Having your 37-year-old who is clearly playing hurt mirror his minutes with *checks notes* Zion Williamson is certainly an idea!

Fourth Quarter

  • Similarly, having a frontcourt of Montrezl Harrell and Georges Niang guard Zion Williamson after that second quarter is certainly an idea!
  • A much better stretch for Tyrese Maxey in the second half, as he finally saw a three-pointer fall, as well as a tough up-and-under and this floater

Maxey would finish with nine points on 4 of 10 shooting in just under 19 minutes of play.

  • The Sixers shot themselves in the foot so many times this game. They sent both Willy Hernangomez and Jaxson Hayes to the free throw line on three-pointers, and gave the Pelicans multiple free points in the form of technical free throws. They turned the ball over 18 times. Career night from McCollum aside, it was an ugly night for the Sixers.
  • Philly can put this one behind them quickly, as they travel to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder at 8 p.m. tomorrow night.

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