The Sixers fall just short to picking up their first win of the season vs Milwaukee at home, 90-88. James Harden had 13 points in the 4th quarter in a great effort, but could not get the final shot to fall. Harden finished the game with 31 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assist.
The outstanding performance is another example of James Harden taking what the defense gives him. He realized that his 3-pt shot wasn't falling and adapted to taking advantage of the mid-range, where he was 9-12 shooting. 31 points and only one made 3-pointer shows how polished Harden can be on the offensive end. His change to be more of a slasher almost had the 76ers steal a win at home.
All in all, the Sixers got outplayed. The Bucks, without Kris Middleton, Pat Connaughton, and Joe Ingles, were undermatched in this contest on paper, but their stars showed up and their role players were efficient. Yet, you can't say the same for Philadelphia.
Again, the bench unit for the Sixers just did not show up. Only two players scored for Philly off the bench, De'Anthony Melton and Danuel House combined for 13 points.
Joel Embiid is definitely the biggest story of the night. To put it frank, he is a shell of his prior self. I know he will turn on the gas in the coming weeks, but he looks lost on the court and it is extremely frustrating.
In the 2nd half of play, Joel Embiid did not score a single point. Unacceptable from our "MVP". With Joel off the court, the 76ers went on a 13-0 run to tie the game late in the 4th quarter. A lineup of Harden-Melton-House-Tobias-Tucker was the spark for the Sixers. You have to give Doc credit for that, he saw that Tucker was the best option at center and ran with the small ball lineup. Joel was so bad tonight, he only logged six 4th quarter minutes.
The most jarring stat from Joel is the fact he only shot three free throws. A guy who is routinely getting to the line 10+ times a game, just didn't have it tonight. I will say the refs were not favoring him, but this is attributed with him settling for so many bad jumpers. His shot selection was one of the worst I've seen in a long time from Joel. And I can't believe I'm going to say this, but Joel and Doc need to figure out how he is going to be used in the offense.
Tyrese Maxey played great in spurts, but could never put a lengthy run together of offensive play. At this point, we need to re-evaluate what he is bringing to this team. Yes, he can make some very difficult shots, but when he does not hit a 3-pointer, brings no defense to the table, and virtually has no playmaking, he simply isn't that valuable to winning. I expect that to change, but the Maxey hype was a bit too much during the preseason and he has left a lot to be desired in the first two games of the regular season.
Now, back to James Harden. I'll admit, the isolation play was one of my pet-peeves of the Sixers from years past, but with Harden, sometimes it's your only answer. He is like no one this game has ever seen when 1on1.
With his step back so well respect league wide, he can really slice through the defense creating leverage when driving to the cup.
The floater was something James went back to time and time again. When he is running at the help defense at full speed, his float/runner shot is unguardable, it's just up to Harden to make it.
As I touched on earlier, James really excelled in the mid-range. He had shades of vintage Chris Paul in him tonight. Even off the dribble, he was able to nail 2-pt shots, which is an analytic nightmare, but he made it work.
Regarding the final shot of the game for the Sixers, he did not get a good look at the rim at all. With 8.7 seconds, he caught the ball a little too far away from the perimeter for my liking, allowing Allen to get in a position to bump him on his drive (which should've been called a foul). A great shot contest from Jrue Holiday led to the missed shot and that was that. Not much more you can do, just have to live with the result and move onto the next one.
"I think James would take that shot and we would live with it" is what Doc Rivers had to say about the shot post game. And I agree, that is a shot you are just going to have to live with in that scenario. No, it wasn't what we were hoping for, but at least the Sixers gave themselves a chance.