Sixers Bell Ringer standings
Joel Embiid - 12
James Harden - 12
Tobias Harris - 5
Tyrese Maxey - 4
Shake Milton - 4
Paul Reed - 2
De’Anthony Melton - 1
Georges Niang - 1
Montrezl Harrell - 1
It’s understood if you haven’t exhaled over the last 24 hours, Sixers fans.
But you can do so now.
The Sixers followed up a one-point win in Utah by escaping L.A. with a 113-112 victory over LeBron James and the Lakers. There was an interesting wrinkle tonight as De’Anthony Melton got the start while Tyrese Maxey came off the bench. Doc Rivers explained the decision to reporters postgame:
On Tyrese Maxey coming off the bench, Doc Rivers said that there will be three starting lineups moving forward that will change based on matchup.— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) January 16, 2023
Obviously, this means Maxey, Melton and P.J. Tucker will rotate spots in the starting unit. The projected starting lineup hasn’t shared the floor together much this season, but perhaps with Melton playing so well it’s forcing Rivers’ hand.
As for the game, who started didn’t matter all that much. Maxey played 31 minutes while Melton played 21. Other than Joel Embiid and James Harden being terrific yet again, Tobias Harris’ return to the lineup was mighty impactful, especially in the second half.
Let’s talk Bell Ringer.
Joel Embiid: 35 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
This West Coast swing isn’t going to be easy, but through two games, the Sixers’ opponents have been woefully ill-equipped to contend with Embiid. As of this posting, Embiid is just 0.4 points behind Luka Doncic for the highest mark in the league. Nights like Sunday make it easy to see why.
The Harden-Embiid pick-and-roll was a well-oiled machine for much of the game. With Embiid’s ability to pop to the free throw line, I’m not sure how you stop the action. You just have to hope Embiid misses ... from his favorite spot on the floor. Otherwise you’re giving Harden a path to the paint or allowing Embiid to get all the way to the rim.
Which typically won’t end well for you ...
The action has produced game-winners from Embiid in back-to-back nights.
What makes Embiid’s performance even more encouraging is it being on the second half of a back-to-back. Embiid was able to play 35 minutes Sunday and was as efficient as ever. He was 12 of 21 from the field, 2 of 5 from three and 9 of 12 from the line (though I’m positive he won’t be happy with that last shooting line).
As has been discussed, Embiid’s defensive effort has been up and down, but man, it is noticeable when he’s out of the game and Montrezl Harrell is in. After sinking what was ultimately the game-winner, Embiid collaborated with Georges Niang on a huge defensive play on an ill-advised Russell Westbrook drive.
mini: van— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 16, 2023
HUGE: GAME WINNING BLOCK pic.twitter.com/2ZiTWWuUUY
James Harden: 24 points, 13 assists, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block
I almost wish we could cheat here and give it to both Embiid and Harden. Both guys were terrific.
As mentioned the pick-and-roll was humming all night long. What’s been noticeable recently is the way Harden has been looking to finish off more of his drives and not foul-baiting. It’s been leading to Harden getting more looks at the rim or getting them for Embiid.
As great as Embiid is at finding his own offense, Harden’s presence and ability make it sooo much easier.
And the nightly touchdown passes are so much fun.
wild-card weekend vibes with that pass. pic.twitter.com/7gatsRJbDz— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 16, 2023
What’s been more encouraging with Harden, especially lately, is how he’s performed sans Embiid. He’s had moments where he looks like he can absolutely carry the Sixers’ offense for large stretches of games.
I’ve seen a lot made of Harden’s play since he returned from injury. And that’s very fair. He’s played at an elite level over the last few weeks. But really Harden has been pretty great for the Sixers all year long. I wonder how good those numbers would look if that foot injury didn’t cost him 14 games. He would be leading the league in assists (he still doesn’t qualify quite yet) and be talked about as a surefire All-Star.
Tobias Harris: 15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks
Harris gets an honorable mention nod in his return to the starting lineup. It was a bit of a slow start for Harris. He was just 1 of 4 for three points in the first half.
It seemed clear Rivers wanted to feature Harris early in the second to get him going.
starting the third off right. pic.twitter.com/rKTnXEBu5I— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 16, 2023
Harris scored 12 points in the second — many of which felt timely. He provided just enough complementary scoring to help the Sixers eek out a win.
Even bigger might have been the way Harris defended LeBron down the stretch. James was awesome for most of the night, but went 3 of 8 for eight points in the fourth quarter of a very tight contest. Harris obviously didn’t shut The King down by any stretch, but it was a solid effort.
Who is the Sixers’ Bell Ringer for Sunday vs. the Lakers?
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