By: Kylan Watson
The Philadelphia 76ers were riding high as they looked to extend their five-game winning streak, to a season high tying six-game winning streak. As they faced an under-manned Houston Rockets squad. Despite an early fight from the Rockets, the Sixers rocked them with a strong offensive surge to rout them 135-115.
It did not look good early on for the Sixers. The Rockets were able to get out to an early lead and keep up with them in the first quarter. Then late in the quarter guard/forward Ben Simmons and guard/forward Danny “Corner Three King” Green awakened. Green hit some three corner threes to help the Sixers retake the lead and rock the Rockets. They had no answer for his ball movement and at times lost him on the defensive end. He scored nine-points. Simmons took over as well late in the quarter he scored six straight points and even hit a fade-away jumper. He scored 10-points and his playmaking ability helped him get the bench unit involved. Particularly guard Shake Milton who took advantage of his minutes. He scored 19-points and three threes. Milton has been unlocked since the All-Star break and if he can continue to stay hot off the bench, he will add to the bench depth for Philly come playoff time.
On the fit of the team, “You know, the team fits. I feel like a lot of people don’t talk about it enough. Just, the shooting that was added, last year we didn’t have that. There was not enough space,” said Sixers center Joel Embiid.
The Rockets continued to battle and forward Kenyon Martin Jr.(23-points) and center Kelly Olynyk (27-points) put on a show against Philly. They combined for 50-points and the Sixers had no answers for them. Both would hit contested shots from three and when they were ran off the three-point line. They would attack the paint. Eventually Philly had to clamp them up with a better defensive effort.
The focus on defense went to Kevin Porter Jr. Who was held relatively in check as both Simmons and Harris made it difficult for him. He scored 16-points on 6/13 shooting before he left the game with a high-ankle sprain. This added to a list of injuries for Houston who were missing eight players tonight. They only dressed eight players tonight.
The Sixers really put this game away in the third quarter thanks to an early scoring outburst from Joel Embiid who scored 17 of his 34-points by half-time. Houston just did not have the bodies to contend with a focused Embiid. He scored from the perimeter and when they tried to double team him, he would attack the basket and get Houston’s defenders in foul trouble. He continues to show that he is a strong contender for the MVP award.
On the win, “These wins don’t excite me too much because we haven’t been playing good teams,” said Embiid.
With the win Philly extends their win-streak to six-games and now have a two-game lead over the Brooklyn Nets for first place in the Eastern Conference. Philly now prepares for a weekend back-to-back with the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night and the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night. Philly will need to have it working on both sides of the ball particularly in the paint, if they want to stop the frontcourt of the Pelicans on Friday. Additionally, they will also need strong perimeter defense to stop the backcourt of the Pistons on Saturday night. If they want to push the win streak to eight-games and have firm control of the number one seed in the East.