June 7, 2023

76ers Waste MVP Like Performance From Embiid


Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, right rear, looks to pass the ball while being defended by Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, left, and guard De'Anthony Melton (8) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in San Francisco, Friday, March 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Friday night’s loss against the Warriors was the first game in a long list of tough games down the stretch for the Sixers. The Sixers fell to the Warriors 120-112 despite a 46-point performance from Joel Embiid. James Harden missed the game with Achilles’ soreness, and his presence was sorely missed.

MVP Like Performance From Embiid

While the Sixers lost, Embiid continued his streak of being the best player in the NBA with a 46-point, 9 rebounds, and 8-assist performance. The Warriors had absolutely no answer for Embiid last night, and he was just doing whatever he wanted. The Warriors started the game with Draymond Green on Embid, but Embiid quickly got him in foul trouble. 

They then moved Kevon Looney onto him, but that did not work either. People who want to devalue Embiid will talk about how he shoots a lot of free throws. Last night was a perfect example of why that is. No one can guard Joel one on one, so they have to foul. There were multiple occasions where Embiid would drive to the rim, and all the defender could do was just grab his arm.

The Sixers’ biggest problem over the years has been that with Embiid off the court, the team can never hold a lead. That showed its ugly head last night when Embiid sat to start the 4th quarter. The Sixers have been able to do away with bad Embiid court minutes this season by staggering Harden and Embiid. With Harden out last night, no one was able to keep the bench unit afloat.

Embiid is struggling with a sore calf, and I would be surprised if he plays tonight against the Suns.

No Harden

Heading into the playoffs the last thing you want is one of your star players to be dealing with an injury. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening with the Sixers right now. James Harden missed last night’s game with a sore Achilles. Achilles’ injuries can be very tricky, so I would not expect him to play in a lot of the games down the stretch. The 2nd seed is important, but not as important as Harden’s health.

With Harden out the Sixers needed some of the other role players to step up. While they had a 9-point lead heading into the 4th quarter, the 4th quarter was where they fell apart. The Warriors made the defensive adjustment to basically dare P.J. Tucker to shoot, and it did not go well for the Sixers. He would either pass out or just flat-out miss the shot. While Maxey had 21 points, he struggled down the stretch including missing an easy layup that would have cut the game to 3. While Maxey has leaped after leap year after year, last night showed how he still needs to improve as a point guard. He had trouble getting the offense initiated, which lead to some bad shots down the stretch.

While Harden is not a great defender, the Sixers struggled with perimeter defense last night. Obviously, a combination of Jordan Poole, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson will give any team nightmares, but in the playoffs, you will be facing great guards every game. The Sixers’ guards struggled to keep Steph in front of them leading to a few easy floaters. They also really struggled with overhelping on drives, leading to wide-open kick-out three-pointers. The Warriors are the last team you want to get wide-open three-pointers against you. This is one thing that has happened all year that can come back and bite them in the playoffs.

Upcoming Schedule

The Sixers only have 9 games left in the regular season, but they are all against playoff teams. They play the Suns tonight on a back-to-back and then head to Denver for a matchup with the Nuggets. They also have the Celtics and the Bucks in this final stretch. After last night’s loss, they are now 1.5 games back of the Celtics for the two-seed. The two seed is more than within reach but with their final schedule, it will be very hard.

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