Wow. Just wow.
The Sixers overcame their worst half of basketball to knock off the Memphis Grizzlies, 110-105, in their first game back from the All-Star Break on Thursday night. James Harden led the way with 31 points along with seven boards and seven assists. Joel Embiid had his worst offensive game of the season, with 27 points on 7 of 25 shooting, but made up for it on the other end by pulling down 19 rebounds and blocking six shots.
Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.
- As it always seems to be with these Memphis Grizzlies, it was a very chippy start to this one. Both teams combined for eight fouls within the first four minutes of the game. It also didn’t take long for Dillon Brooks to get in James Harden’s face after a reach-in foul.
- Memphis started the game with Brandon Clarke on Joel Embiid, and Jaren Jackson Jr. as a roamer. The late double teams were effective, as Embiid missed his first six shots and the Sixers as a team shot 27 percent in the first.
- Embiid brought some rim protection himself, with a couple emphatic blocks:
But Philly wasn’t particularly sharp on either end. Desmond Bane had an absurd start, shooting 7 of 8 to put up 19 first-quarter points. The Sixers as a team only scored 22, as they went into the second trailing by 15.
- It may have been a product of the large hole they dug themselves in, or it could be that the rotation is tightening up down the stretch because there was no all-bench lineup in the first half, like, at all!
- Embiid has been blocked at the rim before, but I’m not sure anyone’s made it look as impressive as JJJ did.
- As Embiid’s shooting performance spiraled, so did the rest of the offense’s. He was 2-of-14 in the first half, and most of the shots he put up didn’t even have a prayer of going in. As a team they went over five minutes without a field goal, and even missed five free throws. The Grizzlies only shot 38 percent in the second quarter, so the Sixers only went into the half down 12 despite playing one of their worst halves of the season.
- Embiid does deserve some credit for how he made up for his poor shooting on the defensive end. He had two more blocks in the third, finishing with six on the night. While the Grizzlies struggled on offense as well, Embiid played a big role in keeping the Sixers within striking distance.
- Shots didn’t start magically falling for Philly, but they did look a lot more in sync in the second half — there was a lot less yelling at each other for being in the wrong spot.
- Trading baskets doesn’t feel like the right term with the way both teams shot the ball tonight, but that’s essentially what the third quarter was. The Sixers ended the quarter with some momentum, cutting the lead to six.
- It was an ugly night for the Sixers’ offense, but not for James Harden. The headband edition of Harden had 31 points on 10 of 16 shooting and was 6 of 9 from downtown. That’s exactly the type of night the Sixers need from him when Embiid is off.
- Embiid had a ton of impressive blocks on the night, but he saved the most impressive one for last.
Ridiculous block by Embiid on Ja— Kevin Negandhi (@KevinNegandhi) February 24, 2023
- Somehow, someway, the Sixers pulled this one out. It wasn’t the prettiest 48 minutes of this basketball, but the chaos made for a very entertaining finish. Tobias Harris really stepped up in the second half, with his three-point shooting. He was 4 off 7 from beyond the arc on the night, hitting the go-ahead three with 39 seconds left. They outlasted three open misses on the Grizzlies’ last possession of the game. The game was bookended with Dillon Brooks getting in the face of a Sixers’ star. Just a wild game.
- The Sixers’ next game is a big one. They’ll welcome the Boston Celtics to town Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.