Wow, NBA players look a lot fresher when they are not playing literally every single day of the week.
The Sixers picked up a quality win when they knocked off the Oklahoma City Thunder 127-123 Saturday night. Joel Embiid dropped 35 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and four blocks in his return to the lineup.
Tyrese Maxey had 28 points of his own, shooting 8-of-17 from the floor to combat a 31-point night from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and 33 points from Chet Holmgren.
Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.
- Let’s just get it out of the way now: it is insane Josh Giddey was even with the team right now, let alone playing and starting. The NBA likes to think of itself as the “progressive league” but has contradicted that with its treatment of this situation, as well as how little punishment they doled out to Miles Bridges.
- Embiid had the advantage early over rookie standout Chet Holmgren, thanks in large part to the weight differential. He beat Holmgren with a drop step for the first points of the game and went right back to that until the Thunder began to aggressively double.
- Marcus Morris Sr. having a nice shooting night might have been horrible for the rotation long term. Tonight he was the second sub off the bench, ahead of Robert Covington, though Jaden Springer was such a late scratch it wasn’t announced he wasn’t available until the second quarter started. Nick Nurse doesn’t have many similarities with Doc Rivers, but an over-reliance on veterans is one of the few.
- For as well as Philly’s offense started, it went very cold as the quarter ended. They scored three points over the last five minutes of the quarter. The combination of Jaylin Williams and late double teams stopped what was previously very good ball movement for the Sixers. The Thunder ended up with a two-point lead after the opening quarter.
- Maxey has been shooting around 37% from three over his last few games, so it’s weird to say he’s in a slump, but he hasn’t quite snapped out of it yet. Lengthy defenders still can bother him, so it’s not a shock that Holmgren got his first block of the night on Maxey. He shot a fairly inefficient 3-of-8 in the half, but made up for that some by getting to the line seven times.
- Embiid just looked to be moving so much better than he was earlier in the week. That normally manifests on both ends of the floor, and he was flying around the paint on defense, blocking three shots in the first half.
- Embiid also did a great job of finding his teammates in the first half. OKC was ready to load up on the Embiid and Maxey pick-and-roll, so Embiid countered by finding his teammates in the corner or cutting to the hoop. He had five assists in the first half.
- An area Nick Nurse hasn’t been thrilled with recently as the team has dropped a couple games is rebounding. With an increased focus on crashing the glass, the Sixers pulled down 10 offensive rebounds in the first half. Those second-chance points were a big reason they held a four-point lead at halftime after Gilgeous-Alexander dropped 19 in the half.
- Even on one of Embiid’s best defensive nights, a stretch five will be his achilles heel. Holmgren ripped off nine points to start the half as his jumper started to fall, giving the Thunder the lead again briefly.
- Another Sixer who needed to bounce back from a rough week was Nico Batum, and they certainly got that tonight. Through three quarters he had 13 points, shooting 4-of-6 from the field. He also pulled down six rebounds, three on the offensive side, had three assists and two blocks.
- A solid end to the quarter for Philly, and it helped that Gilgeous-Alexander finally started to miss some shots. He shot 1-of-6 in the third after going 7-for-11 in the first half, as the Sixers pushed their lead up to 11.
- The final frame opened with a much better stretch from Maxey, despite the Thunder essentially doubling him every time he crossed half court. As the Sixers were knocking down threes, it gave Maxey space to get into a pick-and-roll and get good looks on his midrange jumper.
Tyrese Maxey is a bucket. pic.twitter.com/QcKyTenP7W— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) November 26, 2023
- The offense had one more lull in them which prevented them from running away with the game. They were held scoreless for over three minutes to allow the Thunder back into it. The pace of the game slowed to a crawl during this stretch as the Sixers couldn’t keep Gilgeous-Alexander off the free throw line.
- The last minute of the game was even uglier and slower as the Thunder hit every three they needed to, ensuring that they fouled on every possession. The Sixers made just enough of their free throws to win that math battle, though it was a choppy end to what was an otherwise good win.
- The Sixers will head back home for another marquee Western Conference matchup. They’ll welcome LeBron James and the Lakers to town Monday at 7 p.m. ET.