Patrick Beverley goes off, Tobias Harris disappears in Sixers’ loss to Celtics: Likes and dislikes
The Sixers (12-6) visited the Boston Celtics (14-4) on Friday. Philadelphia wanted to rebound from Wednesday's loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Boston wanted to extend its winning streak to three games. Despite an incredible night from Patrick Beverley, the Sixers couldn't manufacture enough offense with their two best players out in a 125-119 defeat.
Before we get to the action, some notes.
The Sixers were without Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, who have illnesses.
Kelly Oubre Jr. is recovering from a fractured rib and was out. Nico Batum missed the game due to right finger soreness.
Danuel House Jr. has a left quad contusion and was not available.
Terquavion Smith and Ricky Council IV are on two-way G League assignments with the Delaware Blue Coats and were out. Javonte Smart is not with the team.
Nick Nurse started Beverley, De'Anthony Melton, Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris Sr., and Paul Reed.
The Celtics were without Kristaps Porzingis, who has a strained left calf.
Jordan Walsh is on an assignment with Boston's G League affiliate and was out. Nathan Knight and JD Davison are on two-way assignments with the Celtics' G League affiliate and were not available.
Joe Mazzulla started Jrue Holiday, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford.
- Good call by Nurse to start Reed. Philadelphia was quite flat in the first two games they played without Embiid. Having neither him nor Maxey would understandably take the wind out of the sails for most teams. The Sixers basically spotted the Timberwolves and Pelicans double-digit advantages from the jump in the first two games Embiid missed. Nurse avoided the same lethargy by starting Reed, who helped propel the Sixers to a very good start in this one. Wise move by the brain trust to insert the team's human energizer bunny into the starting lineup.
- Even if the Sixers came out and tried their damnedest, it wouldn't have been surprising to see Boston's offense beat a decent defensive effort. No matter how hard you play, not having Embiid in the middle encourages rim attacks. That's a hole you can't just plug with a team effort. But, even if Philadelphia couldn't thwart rim attacks, they deserve a massive applause for refusing to just concede scores off drives.
Look no further than Robert Covington, the deflection master himself. He recorded four steals in 12 first-half minutes. His one-on-one defense has never been great. But, he can cover up his own shortcomings in the same play by sticking his hand in the way of a dribble to blow up the drive. If Covington wasn't doing that on his own assignment, he was reaching in as a helper and poking the ball loose.
He spearheaded a major defensive effort by Philadelphia to force live turnovers on bad passes and dull drives, which fed transition offense. You don't need stars to score in transition, and that was often the Sixers' best course of action in this one. The Sixers forced 11 turnovers in the first half, eight between Tatum and Brown alone. They fought the good fight, which is all you can say when you don't have your best players.
- Where were you for the Pat Bev game? He's really confident in his floater right now, attacking closeouts and beating solid defenders off the bounce in pursuit of giant-killers in the middle of the floor. He even Nashed for a couple of difficult scores over Horford at the rim. You know he's feeling it when he's lacing step-back threes. 16 points in the first half for Beverley. One of the main reasons the Sixers had any juice to keep pace on offense before intermission.
If you expected Beverley to cool down in the second half, you were wrong. It was the game of his career. He took on the role of both go-to scorer and playmaker, organizing the floor and toggling through screeners until he had the matchup he liked.
The offense has been extremely difficult for Beverley to come by this season, both as scorer and passer. His decision-making as a distributor has left a lot to be desired and his shooting fell off a cliff so much that you wondered if he was even playable because of how little respect he garnered from defenses.
Yet, he had an exceptionally balanced game, not overly bashful from the perimeter but not trying to make things happen with drives that weren't really there. It felt natural to him, and he handled all of the responsibilities quite well. This game is a blowout without him.
- Things were looking quite grim for Mo Bamba, but he pumped life into the Sixers in his third-quarter stint. Bamba knocked down a pair of triples out of pick-and-pops to prevent the Celtics from pulling away. He also had a handful of timely put-back dunks to clean up his teammates' misses. Bamba is always going to be a risk when the ball is in his hands because he's not strong. But, really good run from him in this game.
- It's much easier said than executed when you're dealing with the number of absences Philadelphia was in this game, but there were a couple of stretches in the second half during which it felt as though the Sixers were letting the ball stick in one place for too long. They let possessions get away without direction or actions. Run some sets, fellas. We all know you have them.
- While the guy on a minimum deal was running the show and keeping Philadelphia alive, Harris was making every mental mistake he possibly could. He tried to jump with the trees twice late in the fourth quarter, getting rejected both times. Harris then tried to finish softly in transition with a pair of defenders right on his heels, getting blocked at the rim again.
Both instances could've been easy baskets and maybe even and-ones if Harris just slowed the game down and used up-fakes. He had the Celtics in emergency situations on both possessions and made the wrong decision both times. Really bad feel at a critical juncture of the game.
But, that wasn't the only lowlight. He also committed an ultra-rare palming violation with no one defending him. You could really tell he was out of it by how he presented in the final few minutes of the game. Harris was happy to be a spacer, watching the play from afar as if he were a limited specialist. Really, really disappointing from the team's supposed third option.
The Sixers (12-7) will visit the Washington Wizards (3-16) on Wednesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the action on NBC Sports Philadelphia.
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