Game Review | Bouncing Back in Brooklyn
For the 76ers, a little bit of rest seemed to do a lot of good.
Back in action on the heels of consecutive days without a game, the Sixers on Sunday turned in one of their most complete performances of the season, posting a 120-97 victory over the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center.
With the win, the Sixers split a week-long four-game trek, and maintained their grip on the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference standings.
Aiming to bounce back fresh after Thursday’s loss in Miami, the Sixers did just that.
Joel Embiid was instrumental in setting a spirited tone in Sunday’s triumph, the Sixers’ first over the Nets this season. He ended the evening with a team-best 21 points (9-17 fg, 1-2 3fg, 2-4 ft), to go with 8 rebounds, and 3 assists.
“Lately, we have been kind of up and down,” said Embiid, “but I’m glad we got a win tonight. We’re trying to go to the playoffs, and you have to be able to go on the road and win games.”
Joining Embiid in double-figures Sunday were the rest of his fellow starters, plus three members of the bench. Robert Covington and Dario Saric finished with 19 points (8-11 fg, 2-4 3fg) and 18 points (6-10 fg, 3-7 3fg, 4-6 ft), respectively, while JJ Redick added 12 points (5-10 fg, 1-4 3fg).
Like Embiid, Ben Simmons got off to a quick start, tallying 7 of his 11 points (4-9 fg) in Sunday’s opening frame. He added 6 rebounds, and 6 assists the rest of the way.
“We were just more focused,” Simmons said. “[We] stuck with our game plan the whole time, and tried to make them take tough twos.”
While T.J. McConnell might not have put up the most eye-popping numbers in any single statistical category, he certainly embodied the type of energetic two-way presence the Sixers sought Sunday. Active on both ends of the court, the back-up point guard notched 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists, and also proved to be a terror on defense, with 4 steals.
Ersan Ilyasova was another one of Sunday's bench headliners. The veteran forward cranked out 10 points and a season-high tying 13 rebounds for his first double-double since rejoining the Sixers, and second overall on the year.
Turnovers were a key subplot in Sunday’s contest. The Sixers committed only 10 of them, and forced Brooklyn into 18, which resulted in a pivotal 22-9 advantage in points off turnovers.
All in all, the Sixers were sound on the defensive end, holding the Nets to 38.8 percent shooting, and 35.7 percent from beyond the arc.
After briefly trailing 2-0, the Sixers got rolling. Through 12 minutes of play, they were up a dozen, en route to building a lead as large as 27 points in Sunday's fourth quarter.
In between Thursday’s outing in Miami, and Sunday’s stop in Brooklyn, the Sixers decided to spend some time - albeit brief - at home. The club was given off Friday, then regrouped Saturday in Camden for practice, during which Brett Brown made defense, particularly 3-point defense, a primary point of emphasis.
Sunday at Barclays Center, the Sixers responded. Not only was Brooklyn held to 38.8 percent shooting, the Nets managed only 28 3-point attempts, roughly six heaves less than their Eastern Conference-leading per-100 possession rate.
Brooklyn took the floor Sunday having made the second-most threes in the NBA.
“I thought we were pretty good,” Brown said Sunday, when asked during his post-game press conference about the Sixers’ perimeter defense. “To reduce [Brooklyn’s 3-point chances], let alone get to them, was our game plan. I thought our guys did a pretty good.”
Especially pleasing to Brown was the Sixers’ defensive performance in the second half. The Nets converted a mere 3 of 16 field goal tries in the fourth quarter.
Embiid Back in Form
Quite early, Joel Embiid asserted himself as a force to be reckoned with in Sunday’s game. He nailed his first three shots of the night, scoring at a different level each time.
First came a 16-foot jumper from the wing, then a 3-pointer, followed moments later by a lay-up.
“Dominant” was the word Brett Brown used to describe Embiid’s performance.
“I thought he was extremely aggressive,” said the head coach.
Over the course of the game, Brown liked the balance Embiid established with his post game. The All-Star made deep catches in the paint, something that Brown always likes to see, and passed effectively as well.
Embiid sounded satisfied with his showing.
“I had more energy tonight,” said Embiid, whose goal Sunday was to be a “beast” on the block. “Today, that was one of the main things.”
The big man definitely made good on his plan.
Bench Makes Big Impact
Combining for 39 points, the Sixers’ reserves Sunday produced nearly 12 more points than they do on a per game basis.
Marco Belinelli was the team’s top bench scorer, with 13 points. Ersan Ilyasova chipped in with 11 points (plus 13 rebounds), while T.J. McConnell enjoyed his own fantastic all-around night (10 pts, 4 reb, 6 ast, 4 stl).
Serving as the primary center sub for Joel Embiid, Richaun Holmes stood out, too, with 5 assists, a total that tied a career-high.
Brett Brown was encouraged by the progress his back-ups showed.
“I thought tonight, with T.J., Ersan, and Marco, and...Richaun, I was really happy with the growth with that part of our evolution,” Brown said.
Within the opening minutes of Sunday’s Atlantic Division match-up, it was easy to tell that Joel Embiid had an energetic bounce to his step. His footwork on this first-quarter sequence provided a perfect case in point.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 11, 2018
What’s this we spy on the horizon? A...home game?
Yes, as of late, appearances in South Philadelphia have been few and far between for the Sixers. In fact, the club has only had two outings at The Center since returning from the All-Star break. Beginning with Tuesday’s important pairing with Indiana, however, the Sixers’ travel demands start to taper off, as seven of their next nine games will be played in the 19148 zip code. As of Sunday, the Pacers led the Sixers by 2.0 games for fourth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race.