Grueling schedule, more takeaways from Sixers’ weekend split
After a season-long six-game road trip, the Sixers finally returned home for a quick homestand. They would start the weekend on a high note beating the Timberwolves in Joel Embiid's return to the lineup. Things would not be the same on Sunday as the Sixers would come out flat and suffer a sixteen-point loss to the Grizzlies.
Here are some takeaways from the weekend's matchups.
Home sweet home
Towards the end of the road trip, you could see all the time on the road getting to the Sixers. After their lackluster effort against the Denver Nuggets, it was clear they were a team begging to get back home.
One thing that stood out in Saturday night's matchup was a complete 180 in terms of energy from this team. Whether it was from Embiid making his return, playing on the home court, or both, the Sixers looked like a team revitalized.
Little rust from Joel Embiid
After missing three weeks due to injury, one thing to keep an eye on was how rusty Joel Embiid would look in his return. Doc Rivers said multiple times that he looked good during his rehab time, but being conditioned for the NBA game is something you don't fully grasp until you're out on the floor.
That being said, there was minimal rust from Embiid against the T-Wolves on Saturday. He would score 24 points and grab eight rebounds while playing just under 29 minutes.
Even after missing ten games, he managed to keep his feel for the game. This was very apparent in his ability to draw fouls, as he would go to the free-throw line 17 times.
Another area that stood out was his timing on defense. The All-Star center would block three shots, one of them being a crucial block on rookie Anthony Edwards late in the game to seal the victory.
Seeing how easy Embiid was able to get back into the flow of the game is a major positive moving forward. In the past, it had taken him some time to get his rhythm back after missing time, this just speaks volumes to how diligent he has been maintaining his body and condition this season.
Tobias Harris attacking mismatches
We are running out of words to describe the emergence of Tobias Harris this season, but he needs to continue to see praise. He was without a doubt the star for the Sixers over both games this weekend.
Sliding Harris back to his natural position has made him a much more impactful player on the offensive end. With all the size in the Sixers' lineup, teams have had to pick their poison when defending Harris, Embiid, and Ben Simmons.
This was apparent in both matchups as Minnesota and Memphis would both attempt to put smaller wing players on Harris. He saw these mismatches and did not stop attacking them, going off for 32 and 21 points in each game.
Harris's confidence and aggressiveness to see a mismatch and continually go at it have been a huge growth in his game this season. This should be a big boost in the postseason when the game slows down, and teams look to attack weaker defensive matchups.
Forcing things on offense
One area that hurt the Sixers in their loss to the Grizzlies was outside shooting. As a team, they would shoot 23.5%, only hitting eight of their 34 attempts. This poor shooting performance would affect the Sixers' offense on many levels.
The drive-and-kick game is something that Doc Rivers is always speaking highly about, and for good reason, with a guy like Ben Simmons on the roster. When the shots aren't falling, this approach isn't exactly the remedy for success.
Not to mention, when shooters go cold it allows the defense to shrink the floor, making life harder for Simmons and Harris to attack around the rim.
Playing this style isn't an issue with the firepower power on this roster. The concern is continuing to go to it when the well is dry. It was clear early on that the shot was not there in that game, but they just kept trying to make it happen.
This is not a major issue as it is just one game throughout a long season, but adapting to the flow of the game is something this team will need to master if they want to make a deep run in the postseason.
Grueling schedule taking its toll
All the energy the Sixers came out with in game one would be short-lived as they looked gassed against the Grizzlies. As we come into the home stretch of the regular season, this compact stretch of games looks to be taking its toll.
This part of the schedule has not been favorable to the Sixers, to say the least. After spending almost two weeks on the road, they come home only to be playing in a back-to-back. Then after just three days at home, they head back out on the road for their next four games.
The team has done its best to stay afloat, but it's clear the grueling schedule is wearing them down. This is something that every team has had to deal with, but there has to be a concern that this rigorous schedule doesn't leave this group depleted before the playoffs.
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