Defense was optional tonight.
The Joel Embiid-less Sixers knocked off the Houston Rockets 131-127 behind a 42-point game from Tyrese Maxey.
He scored those 42 on 50% shooting from the field, getting to the free throw line 15 times. Tobias Harris poured in 22 points, shooting 10-of-18 from the field, and Marcus Morris had 14 points, including the dagger four-point play.
Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.
- Jersey take of the evening: Houston’s city edition jerseys are fine but they could have knocked it out of the park if they just had used the astronaut logo they have at center court.
- The Sixers’ offense was fairly sloppy from the jump. Maxey was great in the first half, but has still started them off passively in games without Embiid in the lineup. That only really becomes a problem on a night like tonight where no one else has anything going on. Six of the shots he took in the first came in the last couple minutes of the quarter. While he’s looking to get his teammates going at the start of games — and that’s a good thing — he only had one assist to show for it in the first.
- The Rockets only shot 44% in the first, but Philly’s defense didn’t look a whole lot better to start. The Sixers were basically forced to go into a zone with Mo Bamba and Marcus Morris Sr. on the court as they could not keep anyone in front of them. The Sixers gave up 32 points as they trailed by six after the first.
- It happens a lot less frequently, but this team will still have stretches when they get crushed on the glass. Houston grabbed 12 offensive rebounds in the half and took 10 more shots, a big reason they were able to stay in front.
- You can nitpick Maxey’s first quarter approach (and I have), but he’s got it figured it out after that. He ripped off 12 of the Sixers’ first 13 points to start the second as he quickly became the team’s only source of offense. He went into halftime with 27 points.
The Marvelous Mr. Maxey. ✨ pic.twitter.com/07WUzA8lrZ— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) December 30, 2023
- Harris has been better the past couple of games, but has yet to have a hyper efficient shooting performance. He had that in the first half, going 5-of-6 from the field, though he only attempted one three-pointer. A much better offensive quarter helped the Sixers cut the lead to one at the break.
- Philly had a tough time containing Jalen Green all night, and he really punished them to start the second half. He was able to get in the paint with relative ease, turning the defense inside out. The Rockets had a quick run to start the quarter which pushed their lead to double digits.
- It was amazing how close this game was despite how bad the Sixers were shooting from deep. They only made two in the quarter from beyond the arc, and were shooting 26% from deep through three quarters. The offense was just able to get nothing outside of Maxey’s self creation.
- The Marcus Morris regression is hitting and it is hitting hard. Through three quarters, he was just 1-of-4 from the floor and 0-of-2 from three. The possessions that end with him getting destroyed on defense or the ones he kills by deciding to post-up are harder to stomach when he isn’t making threes to make up for it. The Rockets lead jumped back to seven after three.
- Better late than never, the Sixers finally got some offensive contributions from the rest of the team. Patrick Beverley started the quarter off with four quick points in transition. Robert Covington was able to create a fast break as well. De’Anthony Melton and Morris finally knocked down some shots, as they were able to erase Houston’s lead.
- I really wanted to criticize the decision to close with Morris over Covington. Nick Nurse opted to end the game small, with Harris as the tallest guy on the floor with Morris at the four. Maxey dragged them to the finish line, but Morris put them over it by hitting the dagger three with 32 seconds left.
- The Sixers will wrap up this road trip tomorrow night in Chicago. While Joel Embiid remains out, they’ll get Nic Batum back for their matchup against the Bulls at 8 p.m. ET.