There was very little to boo about at the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday night.
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After a couple days of drama, the Sixers played one of their finest games of the season in a 110-103 win over the Clippers at Wells Fargo Center.
The win improves the Sixers to an NBA-best 25-2 at home and 34-21 overall. It also sends them on a three-game winning streak heading into the All-Star break.
Here are observations from the win:
Everyone makes peace
Much had been made of Joel Embiid and Al Horford shushing the crowd in back-to-back games. Embiid's cryptic tweeting didn't help things.
Embiid didn't receive a strong reaction either way during pregame introductions, but he did get the crowd into it early. He gathered an offensive rebound, put it back in and was fouled. He then raised his arms to the crowd which elicited a huge applause.
All was forgiven.
As for Horford, he came off the bench for the first time since his rookie year in Atlanta. When he checked into the game in the first, he was actually met with cheers. He then hit a trail three a few seconds into his run and also got an ovation. Horford had a strong night overall with nine points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 28 minutes.
Embiid and Simmons … fitting?
Embiid and Ben Simmons aren't a perfect fit on the court, but with how immensely talented they both are, Brett Brown is trying everything to make it work. He ran a ton of an action he calls "snug" - it's basically just a pick-and-roll in the post with Simmons as the ball handler and Embiid as the screener. It's tough to create space in such a tight floor spot, but both players got a few decent looks off it.
In general, it seemed like both players were looking for each other more than usual. Embiid got plenty of post touches and it truly looked like the offense was running through him. The Clippers use only one true center in Ivica Zubac and Embiid took advantage with 26 points (8 of 17) and nine rebounds.
For good measure, he also got into yet another shoving match with Philly native Marcus Morris late in the fourth. As the refs reviewed the play, Embiid yet again implored the crowd to get louder and they obliged. He blocked a Morris layup attempt not long after.
As for Simmons, turnovers had always been an issue in his matchups with Kawhi Leonard. He committed just three, but continued his recent downhill, attacking style of play with his sixth triple-double of the season: 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
It was one of the finer performances the All-Star duo has had together in their young careers.
J-Rich and Harris step up
Tuesday marked the first time Tobias Harris had played the Clippers since they sent him to the Sixers at last year's trade deadline.
Harris looked more like the player the Sixers traded for and then re-signed to a near-max contract this summer. He was looking for his shot from the beginning. He took a couple aggressive off-the-dribble threes and even scored on a pure isolation play - a couple things he hasn't done much here.
He nearly ended Montrezl Harrell on this drive.
Despite not having the best shooting night, he was good in this one with 17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
This was also the biggest offensive impact Josh Richardson has had since returning from a six-game absence because of a left hamstring strain. He hit a couple huge shots in the fourth quarter to keep the Clippers at arm's length, including a huge and-one drive on Leonard. Richardson had 17 of his 21 points in the final period to help put the game away.
In general, the offense looked smoother. Whether it was the change in the starting lineup or just a mindset, the ball moved better and there appeared to be more open looks.
The defense looked awfully good, too
Richardson also showed his value defensively tonight. He did an outstanding job on Paul George. Rookie Matisse Thybulle also did well on his possessions against George. The perennial All-Star had a rough night, going 3 of 15 for 11 points.
Leonard might be a superhuman, but Simmons deserves credit for at least making him work all night. Leonard had 30 points (12 of 23) and nine assists, but had to earn all of it.
Overall, the Sixers' defensive intensity was there and just as importantly so was their communication and help defense. The Clippers' torrid three-point shooting (14 of 31) kept them in the game, but it was a strong effort on that end all night.
Suddenly, there are options
Brown used 10 players on Tuesday. Not because he was desperately looking for someone, but because he actually has guys that look like useful basketball players.
The red-hot Korkmaz started the first half and was fairly quiet, going just 0 of 5 in 23 minutes. Glenn Robinson III started the second half - likely for defensive purposes - and was solid on both ends.
Tuesday also marked the debut of Alec Burks. What stood out is that he has what Brown calls a "scorer's mentality." He got his first basket on a midrange jumper off a Horford screen. He also had a nice behind-the-back pass to Simmons off a pick-and-roll. He had just two points, but you can see that once Burks develops chemistry with his new teammates, he'll add something.
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