By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
Memphis 104, Philadelphia 99 (Double OT) – Box Score
On Thanksgiving Eve, as many Sixers fans were either traveling back home or hanging out with old friends at the local alehouse, Philadelphia delivered a performance absolutely stuffed with excitement at the Wells Fargo Center. Unfortunately, minutes 54-58 proved to be unkind to the Sixers, who saw their momentous 2-game winning streak snapped in double overtime, but it certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying.
After leading for the majority of the game, the Sixers saw the Grizzlies go on a 12-1 run late in the fourth quarter to take a 6-point lead with less than three minutes remaining. Philadelphia had trouble stopping the Memphis star duo of Mike Conley (25 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists) and Marc Gasol (game-high 27 points), who pick-and-rolled the Sixers to death. Joel Embiid subbed in for Jahlil Okafor about midway through the Grizzlies run, so both big men were equally culpable.
It would have been easy to chalk this game up as yet another late-game collapse. Hard-fought game, Memphis had come into play having won 5 straight themselves, copy-and-paste from any number of other Sixers losses this season. This time though, the Sixers had other plans in mind, as back-to-back threes from Ersan Ilyasova (22 points, 12 rebounds, 1 egregious flop that made me embarrassed to be rooting for him) and Nik Stauskas (10 points, 4 assists, just 3-12 shooting) threw the hometown faithful into a frenzy. Nothing like some extra sauce prior to a Thanksgiving feast (I’ll show myself out).
Single free throws from Marc Gasol and Robert Covington and a missed wide-open Marc Gasol three sent the contest to bonus basketball. In the first extra session, Jerryd Bayless scored all 5 of the Sixers points, including a game-tying three in the final minute. The Sixers had a shot at the win, but a turnaround jumper from Embiid was off the mark. Sadly, that was the last Embiid would contribute to the night’s action, as his 27 minutes were 3 over his 24-minute restriction. Unable to successfully lobby to stay in the game, Embiid took out his frustration on a chair with his foot (the one that hasn’t had surgery thankfully).
The Sixers defense in the final 5 minutes with Okafor anchoring the back line went how you might expect. I think Jah might have got an extra start on the Thanksgiving turkey as his movements looked slowed down by tryptophan. Zach Randolph (11 points) and Gasol might still be scoring in the paint if security hadn’t told them they needed to leave so they could lock up.
Anyway, despite the loss, things are clearly looking up. Sixers fans have plenty to be thankful for this holiday weekend. The Sixers will be back in action Friday against Chicago, albeit without Embiid so maybe feel free to do some Black Friday shopping or spend a little extra time with family. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Other Game Notes:
- Jahlil Okafor had 2 points and 1 rebound (which came on the offensive end) in 26 minutes. I don’t understand how a team’s center can play over half a game’s worth of action and not even grab a single defensive rebound. Actually, I do understand because I’ve watched more than enough of Okafor not box out and not jump for balls off the rim. How management prefers this guy to Noel is beyond me.
- The staff on the Sixers bench absolutely made the right call sitting out Embiid in double overtime. Emotions were hot, but step back for a second and this game is ultimately meaningless. We need Embiid healthy to step to the podium and accept his 2019 MVP trophy. As Embiid himself makes sure to say in every interview, trust the process.
- Good for Robert Covington for finally breaking through with his shot, hitting 4-7 from three for 19 points (to go along with 10 rebounds, 3 steals, and 3 blocks). People were acting like a 5-game slump meant he had forgotten how to shoot, rather than it just being a small subset in a long season. Admittedly, it had been ugly to watch, but you can’t get caught up in the moment too much.