By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
The Sixers and the fans at the Wells Fargo Center have made for a winning combination in 2017. For their 6th straight game at home, Philadelphia came away winners, this time using a complete team effort to propel them to victory with star rookie Joel Embiid on the sidelines.
With Embiid sitting out after suffering a hyperextended knee, and the Sixers facing a Clippers team that has given them a ton of trouble in recent years, expectations were not high heading into Tuesday. Things did not look good after Los Angeles scored 68 points in the first half, the most points allowed by the Sixers in a half this season. When the Clippers went on a 10-0 run to start the second half, extending their lead to 19 points, it would have been perfectly reasonable if you thought the game was over.
However, that’s when the Sixers flipped the script and took control of the game. The emotional crux of the game was a sequence right outside the 2-minute mark of the third quarter where the Sixers briefly went to the hack-a-strategy on DeAndre Jordan. Jordan missed four straight free throws but more stunningly, airballed two of them. Those misses (and some gesturing from Robert Covington) really got the Wells Fargo Center rocking, which continued the rest of the evening as the Sixers gradually pulled away.
Dario Saric was instrumental in the third quarter, scoring 7 straight Sixers points during one stretch. and finishing with 16 points and 8 rebounds. His outside shot stayed ice-cold, but he did well to drive to the basket and create contact (8-9 FT on the game).
The true star off the bench though was unquestionably Richaun Holmes, who was sporting a new cornrows, top-knot hair style. Seeing his first significant minutes in some time with both Embiid and Jahlil Okafor resting minor injuries, Holmes more than made the most of his opportunity. Holmes provided great energy all evening and did everything you could hope for offensively. He finished with a season-high 18 points on 8-11 shooting, both finishing with rim-shaking slams and hitting jumpers from the outside. With the team now 8-3 on the season when Okafor doesn’t play, it’s getting crazier and crazier that Holmes gets shuttled off to the D-league in favor of him.
Meanwhile, Nerlens Noel stepped up in his first start of the season, and played some outstanding defense around the basket. He was the biggest reason the Sixers enjoyed a 66-20 advantage on points in the paint. He could have done a better job on the defensive glass against Jordan (who had 6 of his 20 rebounds come on the offensive end), but a line of 19 points on 8-10 shooting, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks will hopefully raise some awareness in the Colangelo family about his value with the team moving forward.
The Sixers have a tough turnaround with a game in Milwaukee Wednesday night, actually on the court where Marquette just upset Villanova this evening. Sadly, we won’t get to see a rematch between Giannis and Embiid, with Joel sitting out another game before being expected to return Friday. At least for one night though, even without Embiid, Trust the Process chants rang out in the fourth quarter and the Sixers won a basketball game. What more could you ask for?