Sixers Stars Shine the Brightest in Win Over Clippers
When the Sixers best two players are playing at their best, they sure are tough to beat.
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons each played exceptional basketball to lead the Sixers to a impressive win over the L.A. Clippers on Tuesday night.
After Embiid was the center of controversy steaming from a Sunday night "shush", and a Monday night Instagram exchange with Jimmy Butler, he was lightly booed at the start of the game. That quickly turned to cheers, as the jovial big-man erupted for 26 points, hitting 8-of-17 shots and 8-of-13 free throws with nine rebounds, two assists, one block and two 3-pointers in 28 minutes of work.
As for the much-maligned Simmons, he posted a triple-double for the second straight game, scoring 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in 42 minutes. His defense was magnificent, helping the Sixers to a 110-103 win.
"Number one, it didn’t surprise me," head coach Brett Brown said about the team duos performance. "When we add up Ben Simmons and Joel’s stat line, it’s arguably the best game that those two have paired with since I’ve been the coach here…The partnership between Joel and Ben needs to be acknowledged."
The partnership had been acknowledged for all the wrong reason in recent weeks. Reports that the tandem doesn't get along, or can't share the floor together, or causes spacing issues were set aside for at least one night as the Sixers break for the All-Star game in Chicago this weekend -- a game Embiid and Simmons will compete in.
"I think the chemistry was just good – me finding him, him being a force down low and getting open," Simmons explained. "It just worked well tonight. I think we did a good job of getting mismatches and finding them."
"We’re getting better and it’s only going to get better," added Embiid. "We still have a lot of potential, so I’m excited…but it���s not about us. We have great teammates that help make the game easier for us. He’s one of them, so we have to keep trusting our teammates and try to get better."
While neither guy wanted to take the credit, they remain the key to the Sixers success. Sure coach Brett Brown making a lineup change helped, but the players must perform, and on Tuesday night, they did. Brown moved free-agent pickup Al Horford to the bench, a moved that created more spacing on the floor, and gave the Sixers better minutes off-the-bench behind Embiid, allowing him to be limited to just 28 minutes.
"It was originated out of the fact that I thought that they were going to go small," Brown said of the lineup change.
"I think that, in general, not to use that as the reason, I spoke to Al Horford about it and we are trying to find ways to help him and help the team. I felt, disregarding the lineup defensive adjustment, that the time was appropriate to do it and see if we could get that second unit going with Al."
Moving forward it could be something that ignites the Sixers.
It gives them much more flexibility and space on the floor with their first-unit. Furkan Korkmaz got the start, but it was Glenn Robinson III the began their second half. The point is, the Sixers now have more options. They can bring Horford off-the-bench, and feature him with the second-unit, while giving Embiid more of a rest.
"He’s a true pro," Simmons said of Horford. "I respected him a lot competing against him and now he’s my teammate, so I respect him a lot. He’s going to be big for this team. I know everybody knows that and it’s going to show."
It showed last night, the Sixers got big nights from not only Simmons, Embiid, but Josh Richardson was also a key factor, especially in the fourth quarter.
Richardson moved back into the starting lineup, scoring 21 points, including 17 points in the fourth quarter, going a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc.
"In the fourth quarter, I kind of started attacking a little bit more," Richardson explained. "I was kind of just reading the defense. Coach put the ball in my hands and gave me the freedom to read it and attack and take what I saw."
"He got to the paint, made some big threes for them…that’s it, he made shots," Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard said.
He added five rebounds, one assist, three triples and two blocks in 32 minutes.
"It’s the same old story that we talk about; you really don’t know what have until you don’t have it," Brown said about Richardson, who missed time with a hamstring strain. "So we didn’t have him for a period of time, we didn’t have Joel [Embiid] for a period of time, not like two games. You feel the sting of not having that type of player."
Add in Tobias Harris, who had a double-doubled, scoring 17 points with 12 rebounds, five assists in 37 minutes and the Sixers truly got a full-team win over one of the NBA's best.
"It meant a lot," Embiid admitted. "It was good, everybody played well, we played together, and the ball moved. We needed it and the second part of the season, I think, is going to be really fun."
If they continue to play like this, fun will be the word to use to describe it.