By: Kylan Watson
Coming back from the All-Star break the Philadelphia 76ers started their toughest stretch of games with the Memphis Grizzlies. Both of these teams are two of the hottest in the association, and though it took a while to get this game going. When it finally revved up it was the best game of the night as both teams went blow for blow. Philly was able to comeback thanks to Tobias Harris (scored 20-points, and hit four three-pointers tonight) and James Harden hitting some clutch corner threes down the stretch to beat Memphis 110-105.
The Sixers did not start this game off well, they were missing shots and looked like they were still in vacation mode on both sides of the ball. Desmond Bane lit the Sixers up and he scored 22 of his 25-points by the end of the first quarter. He was the difference maker in the game early and Philly had no answers for him and Memphis was threatening to run away with this game. They took full advantage of the defensive attention Bane was drawing to cut to the basket and get easy shots. It was death by a thousand cuts in the first quarter for Philly. They could not find the bottom of the basket and Memphis could not miss. However, when they needed it most, they turned up the heat defensively and switched to a two-three zone. Daring Memphis to continue to hit three-pointers. They could not do it as Bane and the rest of Memphis’ shooters went cold from the three-point line. That gave the Sixers enough of a window to comeback.
On the team’s bad first quarter and comeback victory, “We hang in there. We kept fighting. First quarter was as bad as we could play. In the second half, we just moved the ball. We executed,” said Sixers Head Coach Doc Rivers.
Philly weathered the Bane barrage and outscored the Grizzlies in the next three quarters. They were able to finally get some offensive continuity thanks to James Harden who did just enough to keep Philly in the game. He scored 31-points, had seven assists, and hit six three-pointers (game high). Harden picked up the offensive slack tonight for a clearly sick Joel Embiid who did not have it throughout most of this game on the offensive side. Harden was a maestro tonight he picked his spot but cooked the Grizzlies for daring to give him any room to put a shot up. In one sequence tonight Harden found Tobias Harris in the corner for a three-point opportunity. He did not want to shoot the ball so he gave it back to Harden and he found some way to hit a rainbow corner three that put the Sixers in front and they did not look back.
Usually, the Sixers would lose games like this they were outhustled and thoroughly outplayed, but they flipped the switch on Memphis in that fourth quarter they hustled in this game got to the 50/50 balls, Embiid did not let his offensive struggles stop him defensively. He had six blocks in tonight’s contest and stopped Ja Morant at the basket twice to keep the Sixers in front. This was one of the best effort games Embiid has played in a Sixers uniform and when he decides he wants to be felt no team is stopping the Sixers on either side of the ball. This was a statement win for Philly and they should save the tape of this one. To show the players for later in the season when they don’t have it offensively, they can still win games when they show some playoff level effort.
On the atmosphere in the arena, “It was a Thursday night game, and it sounded like a playoff game in here. It always does,” said Rivers.
They will now prepare for a Saturday night primetime matchup with the Boston Celtics. They will need to play perimeter defense like they did tonight to stifle the duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Additionally, they need to continue to move the ball and get high percentage shots. Even if the shots are not falling early, they need to continue to trust their scheme and teammates. If they want to keep-up with the high-powered Celtics and get their 40th victory of the season on Saturday night.