By: Kylan Watson
The Philadelphia 76ers traveled to Atlanta to face the Hawks after losing to the Heat last night. It took them awhile to get going after playing last night, but the Sixers depth showed up in this game. As they were able to hit their shots late and beat Atlanta 136-131.
Philly did not start any members of their starting five tonight, as they are going with the keep everyone healthy strategy. That allowed for more opportunities for their second unit, and they took full advantage of it. The trio of Jalen McDaniels (24-points, made two/three three-pointers), Georges Niang (24-points, hit five/seven three-pointers), and Danuel House (22-points) led them tonight. They combined for 60 of the Sixers’ 136-points, McDaniels in particular dominated this game early on as he took advantage of his athleticism over the outmatched Atlanta defenders. He was able to use his speed to attack the basket and if he got cut off, he would rise-up over the defender and hit a perimeter jump shot. His continued development on the offensive side has sparked the bench production for Philly and will be pivotal as he will be relied upon to anchor the second unit on both sides of the ball.
Despite the offensive storm from Philly the Sixers were still down by double-digits heading into the second half. Trae Young led them tonight he scored 27-points and had 20-assists tonight. He was a maestro from the field in this game because the Sixers had no one available who could stay with him. When they did shut him down, he found the open man and that propelled Atlanta’s offensive attack throughout most of this game. The biggest adjustment Philly made was putting Jaden Springer on him and his length bothered him. With the way he put Young in jail in this game it’s hard to justify him not getting a roster spot next season. His defensive effectiveness on Young gave the Sixers enough opportunities to come back in this game. The rest of his teammates did not answer the call tonight.
When the Sixers needed a basket, it was Springer and Niang who hit two late buckets to keep the Sixers in front in the overtime period. Niang hit a dagger corner three-pointer off a pump fake to end this game off a pass from Springer. Niang finding the three-point stroke again is another big development for Philly as the postseason draw near, when he has it going from the three-point line he plays harder and provides more space for Embiid, Harden, and Maxey to attack the basket. He has been improving on the defensive end, which is the one knock on him, but if he can continue improving, he will be another big piece off the bench for the playoffs.
The Sixers will now travel to Brooklyn for a Sunday afternoon matchup with the Brooklyn Nets. Both teams will play each other in the playoffs so expect some vanilla offensive and defensive schemes. This will be another big game for the Sixers second unit players who want to continue to give Doc Rivers a reason to put them in the playoff rotation. Additionally, Philly should probably not wait until the second half to turn up the defensive intensity especially if they have to face an equally motivated Nets bench unit if Brooklyn decides not to play their starters on Sunday. The Sixers will need to do these things if they want to get their 54th victory of the season.
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