Sixers Starters Close Out Warriors Late, 108-98.
The Sixers headed to California for a three game stint, beginning with a stop in Oakland to take on the Warriors. It wouldn’t be a Sixers game in March without some key players out. Joel is still sidelined with his bruised knee, and unfortunately for both Warriors and Sixers fans, the Curry brothers both did not suit up for the contest. So how’d a weakened Sixers look against a Warriors team without their star player?
This game was a story of night and day between the Sixers bench and starters. The game opened up with Ben Simmons and the starters in complete control. Simmons notched 10 points in 10 minutes of action as the Sixers cruised to an 18 point lead, up 27-9 late in the first. Then, Doc brought out the second unit and that’s where the trouble began.
This year with a fully healthy Sixers team, the bench has been able to come in and not only hold, but extend the lead against inferior teams. With Joel and Seth out the normally first guys off the bench have to start. This gives Doc the tall task of making a second team that doesn’t mesh well and that’s exactly what we saw tonight. The second unit that played a majority of the early second and late third was comprised of Maxey, Milton, Thybulle, Scott, and Howard. The only pure scorer in that group is Milton, and he can’t work an entire offense. As that unit struggled to produce offensively, the starters lead crumbled. The first time the Warriors took the lead came in the third quarter with no starters on the court. Overall, every player off the bench ended with a plus-minus below zero.
Luckily for the Sixers, while the bench struggled, the starters were able to perform, especially in crunch-time. Midway through the fourth all starters had returned, down 92-86. The Sixers first team proceeded to only allow six points, and 16 in the final seven minutes of the game to secure the win. All Sixers starters ended the contest with plus-minuses above zero. It has become clear that this team has made adjustments in the wake of Embiid’s injury, and a couple players stepped up big time in tonight’s win.
One standout performance from tonight comes from an unlikely gem, Tony Bradley. He recorded his first career double-double with eighteen points and eleven rebounds. On top of that, Bradley was a perfect eight-of-eight from the field. In fact, in his eight starts in place of Joel, he’s only missed seven shots. Bradley has become not only a good rim protector, but a reliable offensive threat on the glass. Four of those eleven rebounds came on the offensive end. If Bradley can continue this level of production without Joel not only will the Sixers continue to look good, but he may earn himself a backup center spot of the future.
The other standout is no secret. Tobias Harris, who continued his all-star snub revenge tour tonight to the tune of his eleventh double-double of the season. Twenty-five points, and thirteen rebounds, all while shooting fifty percent from the field. Harris’ confidence continues to be through the roof, and his shot selection showed it tonight. Harris had no hesitation to shoot the three from a Simmons pass, pull up from the mid-range, and even back down defenders in the low post. With tonight’s outing, Harris is averaging twenty-four points in the six games without Joel.
As the trade deadline fast approaches, who knows what the Sixers will look like come Thursday at Staples Center. Regardless, the heightened play of Tobias and Simmons, along with diamonds in the rough like Tony Bradley emerging has helped the Sixers to a 2-0 start to this road trip.
Mandatory Credit: NBC Philadelphia, Jeff Chiu