Coming off of two straight defeats, the Sixers got back into NBA In-Season Tournament Group Play against the Hawks.
The Philadelphia 76ers (9-3) got back into NBA In-Season Tournament action against the Atlanta Hawks (6-6). Each IST game for the Sixers is a must-win now after dropping a Group Play game to the Indiana Pacers. Tonight, in a back-and-forth game, they ended up on top with a final score of 126-116 to snap a two-game losing skid.
Let’s break down the Sixers’ third NBA In-Season Tournament game.
Sixers player notes:
Joel Embiid: 32 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 10-19 FG shooting
After a pair of lackluster games and a need to improve the minutes in which he’s the lone star on the floor, Embiid was totally locked in.
The Sixers superstar exploded out of the gates, providing offense as a scorer and passer. He directed the floor very well and turned plenty of defensive takeaways into points. Even when the Hawks started adjusting to take away his playmaking, he didn’t stop (and he didn’t go willy-nilly, either). These are the types of games you expect from a superstar.
Tyrese Maxey: 19 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 5-13 FG shooting
It was another slow start for Maxey in this one. He just did not look for his shot enough, especially at the start of the second quarter, where he’s supposed to be the source of offense for that Embiid-less lineup. As the game went on, he started getting himself more involved and made things happen.
Tobias Harris: 29 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 12-20 FG shooting
A season-high in points for Harris appropriately illustrates how important he was for the Sixers. Nick Nurse trusted him to carry the load to start the fourth quarter with no Embiid or Maxey and he delivered. Harris’ consistency has been great to see throughout the start of this season.
Hawks player notes:
Trae Young: 22 points, 2 rebounds, 11 assists, 5-14 FG shooting
They call Young “Ice Trae,” which perfectly matched the cool, blue color of the Hawks’ In-Season Tournament court and his shooting in the first half. However, he made sure his teammates got rewarded for running the floor. Pesky and annoying as he may be, and despite his shooting efficiency in the dumps, he’s tough to slow down. And, as he showed at the end of the third quarter, he can still nail a shot from way deep.
Jalen Johnson: 18 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks, 7-12 FG shooting
Johnson’s third season in the NBA has been off to a hot start. He did everything against the Sixers, namely turn the floor with gusto and block shots, plus hit a few turnaround jumpers. He’s a very special type of athlete who glides effortlessly and is perfect for a Hawks team that loves to soar up the floor.
The Sixers losing one of their Group Play games most likely means that they won’t be able to win their group. The Pacers need just one more win to secure that the head-to-head record tiebreaker will keep them ahead of the Sixers if they win out. Tonight’s game and the final Group Play game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday needed to end in wins for Philly if the team wanted to get to Las Vegas.
The matchup with Young went to Melton while Dejounte Murray guarded Maxey. The Sixers came out looking sharp, making quick passes and attacking the rim early. Embiid tallied nine points in the first four minutes. Johnson displayed his effortless bounce on a pair of dunks as Philly again found a play it liked and spammed it early on. This time, it was a set out of a “horns” alignment that involved multiple cuts and set Embiid up at the elbow with the ball.
Nick Nurse is spamming the same play again to start a game. This set gets more guys involved than the Embiid-Maxey side PnR — Nurse said previously that he still likes to get more guys involved in plays — and Philly is shooting very well to start the game https://t.co/gl3tcJpO6U
— Sam DiGiovanni (@BySamDiGiovanni) November 18, 2023
Danuel House Jr. was the Sixers’ first forward off the bench tonight instead of Marcus Morris Sr., though he still came into the game as the other backup forward. Jaden Springer came in, too. The youngster almost finished off a beautiful passing sequence but was questionably called for an offensive goaltend after he hung a little on the rim for a little too long on a dunk that didn’t go cleanly through the hoop. As stupid as the call was, the refs called Onyeka Okongwu for the same thing. Fun lost but consistency won.
For as good as Embiid was in leading Philly’s offense, the Sixers’ defense was not very good to open the game. Atlanta played with a high tempo and gave Philly’s defense trouble as it tried to keep up. The bench unit did a better job thanks in large part to Springer’s defense on Young. Is anyone else getting deja vu?
Springer also had a pair of blocks in transition as the Hawks found gaps in the Sixers’ transition defense, getting good looks for guys like Bogdan Bogdanovic and Saddiq Bey. Philly went scoreless in the first three minutes of the second quarter as Maxey failed to assert himself. There’s never a good time for him to do that but this was just an extra horrible time for it against one of the best offenses in the NBA.
If not for Covington’s quick hands on defense, the Sixers could have let things get a lot further out of hand. They were fortunate to be down by just four when Embiid came back in. The big fella stabilized things and helped Philly snatch the lead right back. Maxey started to get going and Covington kept making play after play.
The Sixers led 57-56 at the break after Maxey linked up with Harris for an and-one transition dunk.
Embiid got tripped up on Johsnon’s feet after he fell to the floor. The Hawks’ youngster was hit with a shooting foul and De’Andre Hunter was not at all happy about it. He was hit with a pair of technical fouls for chirping at the refs and a quick ejection. Melton recorded a chase-down block on Murray as the Sixers tried — but failed — to pull away.
The Hawks not only hunted fast breaks but kept the ball moving on offense and stayed busy on the boards. They slowed down the Sixers’ offense by crowding the paint and taking away Embiid’s passing opportunities. But the big fella hit the jumpers they were comfortable with him taking and eventually got Philly back in front. The Sixers hit ’em with their own medicine by pushing the pace.
House finished a pair of layups off of passes from Embiid, who started the breaks with great defense, to put them up by eight on an 11-0 run. He hit a corner triple to shut off a Hawks run, doing his bow-and-arrow celebration right to their bench. Embiid paused on the way to doing a DX Chop after an and-one. Although the Hawks challenged him to make more difficult passes, he stayed locked in and got the Sixers up by seven to start the fourth.
Nurse strayed away from his usual rotation pattern by playing Maxey the whole third quarter, rather than getting him some rest and playing him the whole fourth. The lineup to start the fourth: Springer-Melton-House-Harris-Reed. Despite the lack of creators, the unit played cohesively and came away with good shots. All five guys played a part in a run that put the Sixers up by 12 points, their biggest lead of the game. Harris found himself a brilliant shooting groove and House had himself a marvelous two-way sequence.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) November 18, 2023
The Sixers brought Maxey back with eight minutes left and Embiid with roughly six and a half. Embiid connected with passes to Springer as he cut along the baseline while the Philly defense hunkered down. Philly is now 2-1 in Group Play, picking up not just a massive win but a win by a solid margin.
- It really is nuts how much the TV lights make these courts even brighter and crazier.
- Nurse’s new favorite play might be the one where Kyle Neubeck calls out Embiid for his poor effort.
The Sixers will end their brief road swing on Sunday afternoon against the Brooklyn Nets.