Hield, Oubre, and Maxey lead Sixers in thriller over Cavs: Likes and dislikes
The Sixers (31-21) visited the Cleveland Cavaliers (35-16) on Monday. Philadelphia wanted to build on Saturday's win over the Washington Wizards. Cleveland wanted to push its winning streak to 10 games. Buddy Hield, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Tyrese Maxey combined for 70 points to power the Sixers to a shocking victory, 123-121.
Before we get to what I saw, some notes.
The Sixers were without the services of Joel Embiid, who is recovering from a procedure on the meniscus in his left knee.
Tobias Harris was out with a left hip impingement.
De'Anthony Melton remained out as he recovers from a stress response to lumbar spine soreness. As did Nico Batum, who has a strained left hamstring.
Robert Covington also remained out with a bone bruise in his left knee.
Nick Nurse started Maxey, Hield, Oubre Jr., KJ Martin, and Paul Reed.
The Cavaliers were without the services of Dean Wade, who has an illness.
Ty Jerome is recovering from surgery on his right ankle and was out.
Tristan Thompson is serving a league suspension and was not available.
Craig Porter Jr., Isaiah Mobley, and Emoni Bates are on two-way assignments with Cleveland's G League affiliate and were out.
JB Bickerstaff started Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Max Strus, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen.
- Philadelphia was going to need someone to balance being aggressive with picking spots so as to not actively kill possessions with ill-advised plays. Oubre was that guy in the first quarter. He had Garland on a switch in the first quarter and took him right to the rim instead of settling for a three. He kept the offense churning, moving the ball to the next guy instead of calling his own number when there was time to get something better. And when his feet were set in the corner, he cranked up a three to good results.
As Derek Bodner recently pointed out to me, Oubre only wants to finish with his left hand. So, there are times when his drives look downright ugly or don't yield favorable calls because he over-complicates by forcing the ball to his left hand at awkward angles. But, he wasn't just aggressive in the first half; he was forceful when he picked his spots. The Sixers couldn't afford any rogue play from him, and he delivered efficiency.
- I was extremely critical of Nurse's decision to start Martin (see below), but I have to tip my cap. It certainly helped that the Sixers got hot from the perimeter, but Martin and Reed did an excellent job of keeping things stable inside on defense.
On Cleveland's very first possession of the game, Martin stood Mobley up, forcing him to change directions with the ball and attack towards the help side. He stood his ground and pushed Mobley away from the rim, leading the Sixers to force a shot clock violation on their first defensive stand of the contest. On another Cavaliers possession, Martin maintained position and forced Mobley to miss a layup badly.
Reed was also to the task against Allen, staying vertical when the Cleveland big man caught the ball right in front of the rim and helping cause a miss on a possession in the first half.
- Trade season, a time that brings out jubilation and hysteria all at once. Fans of winning teams want every player on the market on their team, without their team having to give up much of any value. When their team gets a good player, it's time to raise the banner. When it's not a player who elicits adoration, everyone has to get fired. You know the drill.
But, even if Hield wasn't your preferred acquisition ahead of the Thursday deadline, it's becoming more and more evident that he was very likely the best player traded before the buzzer.
Snipers often get lumped together, and usually not in a good way. They're either nowhere close to embodying what it means to be a sniper on the basketball court, or their other skills are underrated. Hield falls into the latter category.
He stepped right into the lineup on day one and immediately added value beyond volume shooting. And that value showed once again on Monday. Reed looked Hield's way instead of taking what would've been an open three, and the new Sixer turned the play into a simple pick-and-roll that got the big man a score at the rim.
The Hield-Reed two-man game really took off in the second half of this game, the new guy turning the corner out of the ball screen and finding Reed on the move. But, he didn't have yes just for Reed. He found Bamba lurking in the dunker's spot and dumped the ball off to him out of a drive.
Hield's passing game has been a pleasant surprise. But, his off-the-dribble game has had some good moments, too. He found the angle on a ridiculous left-handed layup off a drive in the first half. And in the fourth quarter, the Sixers relied on him to create a hefty portion of their crunch-time offense. Hield had the answer, lacing a pair of threes after creating space in isolation.
- It's been a very rough season of shooting on non-paint twos for Maxey. He's shooting 36 percent on them - which ranks in the 14th percentile of NBA point guards - per Cleaning The Glass. But, he laced a pair of them off the dribble to give the Sixers some breathing room in crunch time.
- Grown-up stuff from Ricky Council IV in the final 30 seconds of regulation. He laced a pair of free throws to put the Sixers up three. Ice water in the face of pressure.
- Very rarely do I have a "Dislike" ready before the game even starts, but I was extremely skeptical of the decision to start Martin against this team. You're not in a great situation with your personnel anyway, but that lineup is conceptually mimicking Cleveland's starting group. You're shrinking the floor on offense with Martin and Reed, actively helping the Cavaliers' twin-tower frontcourt of Mobley and Allen stay in the paint to protect the rim.
That all makes Maxey's job much more challenging, taking away driving lanes. The whole point of acquiring Hield was to decongest those lanes and add volume shooting. In the spirit of that idea, I might've gone with Payne in the starting lineup to replace Harris. Unless the Sixers came out gunning from three, it felt like they were primed to spot Cleveland an early double-digit lead with bad offense.
[Narrator: He was wrong]
- I cannot stand the "foul to prevent a three" strategy at the end of a game. Just get a stop, put the pressure on the opposition. If they hit a shot, fine. You get the ball back with a chance at the final shot. But, do not give them free shots with no time coming off the clock.
- Another day, another episode of garbage officiating. You can forget Maxey ever getting a foul call, even now that he's an All-Star. But, the three-shot foul they gave Mitchell, the blocking foul on Georges Niang. The ludicrous technical on Martin for hanging on the rim when he was trying to stabilize himself after a dunk. There were so many more bad ones, too.
The Sixers (32-21) will host the Miami Heat (28-25) on Wednesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the game on NBC Sports Philadelphia.