Quick observations: Sixers give up 42 to CJ McCollum, lose to Pelicans

The Sixers may solely watch as CJ McCollum canned a career-high 11 threes, his 42 factors powering the Pelicans to a 127-116 victory over Philly. Joel Embiid (37 factors, eight rebounds, 5 assists) was the star for the guests.

That is what I noticed.

The Good

• The Sixers actually began the sport with the proper method, rebounding from a sleepy effort in D.C. They wanted a significantly better begin in opposition to a significantly better staff on Friday evening, and till they began bringing in bench gamers, they seemed greater than effective. .

To the shock of nobody, it was Embiid main the cost for Philadelphia early. Regardless of being matched up with Jonas Valanciunas, a giant physique within the publish, Embiid did an important job of blending his face-up sport with assaults from the rim, even when JV acquired the very best of him a time or two down low. The Sixers additionally have not requested him to generate a lot of his personal offense, with Embiid scoring most of his first-half factors with off-ball motion and motion. That is sort of the holy grail for this staff — if you may get Embiid-easy factors with simply your offense as a substitute of asking him to play hero ball, you are in your method to playoff success.

You would argue that he was much more vital on the opposite facet. I believe PJ Tucker deserves it little credit score for enjoying bodily protection in opposition to Zion Williamson on this sport, and Zion is the kind of man you’ve Tucker on this staff to protect. He could not match him in athleticism, however he will not let him go him, and slowing him down on the way in which to the rim is half the battle.

However as the sport wore on, it was clear that the person defender in entrance of Williamson had little to do together with his success or lack thereof. When the Sixers had Embiid defending the rim, Williamson did not discover many alternatives to assault it. As quickly as Embiid left the sport, it was chase season for the big-bodied star in New Orleans, Williamson selecting off each different Sixers defender he matched up with. It did not matter if it was Tucker, Georges Niang, Tobias Harris, Montrezl Harrell, or me on the market, Williamson went the place he needed to go. It did not even appear like the identical sport after Embiid was on the bench. That is the distinction Embiid could make simply by being on the ground, even when he isn’t the man making a play or contesting a shot.

Some nights, you watch him go about his enterprise and simply surprise out loud, “How the hell is anybody stopping him tonight?” This was a kind of – Embiid spent the third quarter completely dismantling the Pelicans within the paint, going wherever he needed each time he needed. Valanciunas picked up two fouls within the span of seconds within the third quarter, Embiid baiting him with ruthless precision. And Embiid continued to swing the sledgehammer at Willy Hernangomez, going by the Spanish massive as if he wasn’t there within the first place.

His calculated endurance is so spectacular after watching him play by way of rising pains within the early years. As a substitute of instinctively placing the ball on the ground when he will get it, he holds and holds till it is clear stress is not coming, after which he makes his transfer, a transfer the protection is usually powerless to cease. It could be a fast transfer, it might be a shoulder into somebody’s chest, however when it comes, you may solely achieve this a lot preparation for that second.

Sadly for the Sixers, Embiid ran out of concepts and factors when the sport was on the road within the fourth quarter. The issues that have been working once more light from the sport plan late, resulting in a collection of stagnant, remoted possessions the place the Sixers may solely hope a mid-range jumper would go down. Not a great technique, it seems.

The Dangerous

• Tyrese Maxey seemed like a man who hadn’t performed a lot basketball since mid-November. Nothing unsuitable with him having to work his means into rhythm, and bringing him off the bench made sufficient sense for a debut. Maintain him in a smaller position, let him get again into the circulate of the staff, after which see the place you might be.

Besides Doc Rivers did not actually try this, did he? With the Sixers already in a tough spot throughout Embiid-less minutes, Zion going full bulldozer throughout that stretch, Maxey was put in a lineup the place he was principally requested to hold the group on offense, placed on the ground alongside Milton/Niang/Tucker. /Harrell. That is only a horrible defensive group, and you might argue it was worse on the opposite finish, particularly since Georges Niang took some time to get going as a bounce shooter.

When Maxey is at full power, you might doubtlessly purchase Harden and Embiid a while on the bench for those who completely must, however even that could be a stretch. He was merely a significantly better, simpler participant in a secondary position than these guys, and sometimes struggled to steer bench models on his personal. Asking him to try this in his first sport again was too massive to ask, and I put that squarely on Rivers.

The worst half is that Rivers watched that lineup disintegrate within the first half and trotted out one other act of terror within the second half. Predictably, Williamson made mincemeat out of them for a second time. There ought to by no means be a degree the place we see Harrell/Tucker/Niang on the ground collectively on the identical time until it is an absolute emergency. Hell, for those who want Tucker for the Zion matchup, simply go small at that time, as a result of it is not like Harrell is providing ram safety behind these guys.

Both means, Maxey actually seemed slightly extra snug as the sport went on, placing collectively some good scoring strikes within the second half when the Sixers desperately wanted some factors. He’ll come alongside effectively in time, although I stay curious as to what his position appears like.

• I simply do not see the purpose in enjoying Montrezl Harrell in opposition to good groups, as a result of I simply cannot see what he does that may make him a helpful, efficient participant when it issues. He’s an “power massive” who will get misplaced on protection, loses his man on field probabilities, and applies most of his power to scoring and the offensive glass. He wasn’t even that good in these areas of experience.

To a lesser extent, I really feel the identical about Matisse Thybulle, who has younger and higher arguments on his facet however who I merely don’t and won’t belief in matchups with actual groups. There was a second throughout his 4 first-half minutes the place Thybulle principally ran Jaxson Hayes into a possible driving lane for De’Anthony Melton,

That is a fully weird James Harden sport to charge. Truthfully, I believe he was spectacular as a scorer due to how a lot time he went with out attacking or doing a lot past enjoying set-up for Embiid. And Embiid deserved to get the majority of the touches on a dominant evening, so Harden sliding right into a facilitator-heavy mode was warranted and embraced by No. 1.

You would additionally persuade me that James Harden was actively throwing the sport within the early levels of the second quarter. I believe he dedicated 5 of the worst turnovers I believe I’ve ever seen on a basketball courtroom, and he added to that complete within the second half, simply giving the ball away for no actual cause. Three of the passes have been turnovers you’ll have warned youngsters about at the highschool degree, passes straight into defenders’ containers as a result of he wasn’t wanting the place he was going first. Add in an offensive foul beneath his personal basket as a result of he was bothered by Jose Alvarado, and also you could not have written a extra embarrassing couple of minutes.

That stretch of the sport was the place the Sixers principally misplaced it, as a result of it was the a part of the night the place CJ McCollum discovered his capturing. McCollum acquired some simple appears on the rim in transition — Harden did not precisely defend effectively there both — and as soon as he constructed up a head of steam, it was rattling close to unattainable for the Sixers to sluggish him down the remainder of the evening. Possibly that occurs with out Harden’s collection of mind farts within the second quarter, however he did not assist issues.

It is price saying right here that I do not assume you might pin McCollum’s evening on any particular person participant, and I am leaning extra towards simply giving him credit score for a loopy efficiency. He killed drop protection, after which the Sixers introduced the middle up, and he discovered a method to poke and poke contained in the arc. He killed as an off-ball shooter, then eased his means into controlling the sport as a pull-up dynamo.

• One staff was completely ruthless in transition, greater than doubling their opponent in offensive rebounds and capturing lights out from three. That staff was not the Sixers.

(In equity to the capturing element, each staff will “shoot effectively” collectively when one man makes 10+ threes in a sport. Ridiculous McCollum sport.)

The rebound half is on the prime of the listing for dashing tendencies as a result of these performs so usually come to basketball bases. Philadelphia not having elite measurement or athleticism isn’t any excuse for messing up little containers, being flat-footed or taking unhealthy angles on rebounding alternatives. In actual fact, the Sixers not having nice measurement or athleticism collectively is cause to concentrate on these little issues much more!

• Severely, can this staff cease going away from the Harden/Embiid pick-and-roll down the stretch of video games? What am I lacking right here? I do not care who’s guilty, however the trio of Rivers/Harden/Embiid must determine it out, interval.

The Ugly

• Tucker complaining and drawing a tech on a play the place he smacked the hell out of Williamson’s arm is simply silly stuff. You need to complain about 50/50 performs, be my visitor, however when you may hear pores and skin contact, I might say you simply eat the decision and transfer on to the subsequent play. I am not an expert basketball participant, however I believe that is a great rule of thumb.

Comply with Kyle on Twitter: @KyleNeubeck

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