Ricky Council IV goes for 19 and 10 to seal victory for Sixers: Likes and dislikes
The Sixers (30-21) visited the Washington Wizards (9-42) on Saturday. Philadelphia desperately wanted to snap a four-game losing streak. Washington wanted to end a five-game skid. Ricky Coucil IV went for 19 points and 10 rebounds to help the Sixers seal a victory, 119-113.
Before we get to the action, some notes.
The Sixers were without the services of Joel Embiid, who is recovering from a procedure on the meniscus in his left knee.
De'Anthony Melton is recovering from a stress response to lumbar spine soreness and remained out. As did Nico Batum, who has a strained left hamstring.
Robert Covington remained out with a bone bruise in his left knee. Mo Bamba missed the game with a sore right knee.
Nick Nurse started Tyrese Maxey, Buddy Hield, Kelly Oubre Jr., Tobias Harris, and Paul Reed.
The Wizards were without Isaiah Livers, who has capsule inflammation in his right hip joint.
Brian Keefe started Tyus Jones, Jordan Poole, Deni Avdija, Kyle Kuzma, and Marvin Bagley III.
- Life on the hardwoods is better when you don't get destroyed in the math battle. Although the Wizards took five more threes - and made four more - than the Sixers did, Philadelphia's offense at least had life, trading threes with Washington in the early stages of the first quarter.
One of the themes of this recent skid has been the disparity in three-point volume. Every run the Sixers go on has been quickly quelled by the opposition drilling a triple to regain what the Sixers fought to take away. And when they're reeling, those threes have felt like kill shots.
The Sixers sure didn't stop the Wizards on offense in the first half, but they maintained control with a reasonable three-point volume and simply having better players than the Wizards do.
It almost seemed contagious. Oubre took one off the catch without hesitation on the first possession of the game. Hield made a pair of threes without hesitating on the catch. Suddenly, Harris was more willing to let fly. Maxey took an early pull-back three, which isn't a regular decision for him. If you're going to hesitate, you might as well move the ball to the next guy or drive instead. But, the white jerseys weren't holding the ball long enough to think about it.
- Forget Hield, Harris, and Maxey. The big story of the first half was Ricky Council IV. The more I watch him, the more I see Gerald "Crash" Wallace. The only question is, does Ricky prefer the nickname "Ricky and the Crash", a reference to Wallace and the Meryl Streep movie Ricki and the Flash, or "Crash Council"?
He got involved in so many plays, doing the tough work that more featured players don't always want to do. The shot went up, he crashed to take advantage of watching Wizards or beat them to the spot to retrieve long misses. If he sensed the ball pounding off the floor in his vicinity, he quickly slid over to try to knock it loose. Speaking of loose balls, if there was one to be had, Council at least did due diligence on the play instead of giving up on it.
He didn't just kick the Wizards' butts with hard work. He fought tooth and nail - and, some day, that might actually be a tactic he uses to battle on the court - to get inside and find the cup. Council showed craft, shedding contact or fighting through it a few times for tough scores inside.
His defense was also excellent. Council played with discipline, getting neither overly excited or at all fearful when he was alone on an island with a ball-handler. He simply used his feet to stay in front and kept his hips square. If his assignment had a counter-move, he didn't panic. Council simply kept his arms up and back, his body low, and moved his feet.
- This was up there with the game in Boston for Harris' worst of the season. He faded away from contact in the low post. Harris picked up his dribble and jumped without a plan, throwing a pass to nowhere. He telegraphed his move instead of reacting to how the defense played him and missed inside. Harris was way off on layups all game long, and crashed straight into a Wizard looking for a blocking foul in transition when it was the same obvious offensive foul it always is when he goes barreling straight into established defenders. He tried to string out a trap in the third quarter and threw the pass directly to the Wizards. A brutal, brutal game for him.
- Oubre tripping or losing his footing to the point of falling on a non-negligible number of his drives is such a bizarre characteristic of his game.
- Speaking of Oubre, he and Maxey had a pair of ridiculously silly fouls in the first half. He got overly handsy with Corey Kispert, who was stuck in a dreadful first half, and fouled him as he dribbled. Maxey fouled Poole 94 feet from the basket with the first quarter coming to an end. Just unnecessary stuff.
- Other than a couple of scores, rough first half for Hield. He had a terrible pass on a same-side drive-and-kick, and his defensive warts presented clearly. Hield took a bad route around a screen, giving Landry Shamet an open three out of a curl. He closed heavy on the corner and gave up a baseline drive. It's frustrating because he had some really good defensive moments on Friday against a much better Hawks team.
- There is no explanation that I will accept for why Maxey and Hield didn't run more two-man game in this one, particularly when the offense dried up in the fourth quarter. The Wizards are putrid; they will make mistakes. If both guys go with Maxey, Hield is open. If both go with Hield, Maxey is zooming to the rim. If they switch, you have a small window to make the pass while Hield pops to get an open three.
Even if nothing comes of the initial action, have someone back-screen for Hield and see if that creates confusion. Nurse did not do enough with his new-found tools in this game.
The Sixers (31-21) will visit the Cleveland Cavaliers (34-16) on Monday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the action on NBC Sports Philadelphia.
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Gallery Credit: Josh Hennig