Embiid, Sixers Battle Chris Paul, Suns to the Final Bounce
0.8 seconds left, Chris Paul at the line, 116-113 Phoenix. Joel Embiid grabs a rebound, and heaves a baseball throw the length of the court that is perfectly on line. If the shot goes in, the game goes to overtime. The matchup two of the best teams in the NBA featured an all time great point guard and an MVP candidate. The Sixers were without Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris for the second straight game.
But when you have an MVP candidate like Joel Embiid, you have a chance every night. Embiid was consistently dominant, and his 90 foot heave was perfectly on line, off the glass and just slightly too hard off the front rim to fall. It was a dramatic end to a game that felt like a heavyweight prize fight. "When I threw it, it looked good" Said Embiid after the game.
The physical Suns defense was able to force Embiid into turnovers throughout the night while trying to survive his dominance. Embiid finished with team highs in points, rebounds, assists and turnovers. The game itself remained close throughout and featured physical play on both ends.
The teams entered halftime tied at 54. Embiid had 18 and 10 at intermission. He would go on to finish with 38 points, 17 rebounds, 4 assists and 8 turnovers in the loss.
Phoenix took their largest lead of the night, 101-94 with 6:32 to play when Embiid returned to the floor. Down the stretch Booker, who had been limited by the 76ers defense most of the night, made two key shots and two free throws to shut the door on the shorthanded 76ers. "I thought we got crushed in transition" Said Rivers, who also said the team battled hard despite being shorthanded.
Thybulle on Booker
With Ben Simmons out with illness, Matisse Thybulle was inserted into the starting lineup and given the primary defensive responsibility on Devin Booker. Booker who entered the game averaging 25 points per game, was held to just 3-10 shooting well into the final moments of the game. Thybulle was tenacious and relentless in making Booker's evening as difficult as possible including a highlight block on a three point attempt with just over 3 minutes remaining. "Overall, I thought he [Thybulle] was phenomenal tonight." Said Rivers after the game. "There are not 10 better defenders in this league, iI can tell you that" Said Rivers about Thybulle.
"He's amazing" said Joel Embiid who called Thybulle one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. Embiid and Rivers both were adamant that Thybulle should make an NBA all defense team. "He reminds me of a better version of me" Said Danny Green after the game about Thybulle defensively. Green also mentioned Kawhi Leonard in a glowing endorsement of Thybulle's potential.
Chris Paul Dominates
Chris Paul's stat line did not accurately capture the impact he had on the game. He exploited every crack in the 76ers defense on his way to 28 points, 8 assists on 10-17 from the floor. Paul has been putting on a masterclass in the art of the modern Point Guard position for 15 years.
Rivers on George Floyd Verdict
"The fact that we celebrated a man who committed murder going to jail." said Rivers on the collective sigh of relief felt in America after the guilty verdict was announced. "You know, I thought about that last night" Said Rivers "and I'm not so sure if we've come a long way, or if we have a long way to go. You know, you can think of that either way. But the right thing happened, obviously. And so I was excited about that. You know, blacks have been dehumanized for a long time. And to see a man go to jail for killing a black man should not be significant."
When asked about mental and emotional fatigue at this point in the season, Rivers said "There always is. Anyway, doesn't really matter.. this late in the season 15 games left, guys start looking at the playoffs.
"This has been a tough mental year because of the testing and the guys having to get up, which we don't really talk about a lot, I think that has been as difficult as anything." Said Rivers on days where you would rather you guys stay in bed and rest. They've had to get up and drive to facility and things like that so yeah, I'm sure there's some of that for sure.
The 76ers will have to shake off the toll of a short off season and a grueling pandemic year to avoid a losing streak as they travel to Milwaukee for two games against Giannis and the Bucks. "We're gonna rest all day, hopefully we will be ready for tomorrow" Said Rivers who continued to say "Clearly it's a disadvantage, but we are gonna show up and try to win them both."