Pros and Cons: Sixers vs. Pelicans
Three observations after Sixers-Pelicans.
Adam Aaronson, whose legal name is Sixers Adam (@SixersAdam on Twitter), covers the Sixers for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez. He believes cantaloupe is the best food in existence, and is brought to you by the Official Realtor of The Process, Adam Ksebe.
This morning, I woke up and anticipated an interesting matchup between the Sixers and a New Orleans Pelicans team that featured at least a few intriguing players. And then the Pelicans ruled out 80 percent of their typical starting lineup -- and that’s not even counting Zion Williamson. So, here are some takeaways after the Sixers faced off against the Hospital Pelicans.
Pro: Matisse Thybulle returns after nearly two-week absence. Now, how can he improve?
After taking a scary fall that led to a shoulder injury against the Boston Celtics, Thybulle returned tonight, ending an 11-day absence.
Thybulle’s insertion back into the rotation was much-needed for a Sixers team depleted on the wing, especially defensively. While Thybulle was out, two-way player Charlie Brown Jr. was far overextended in a starting role -- and while Brown Jr. did an admirable job in a difficult situation, it’s fair to say he is better off playing without many expectations.
Danny Green remains on the shelf with a hip injury, as he deals with an injury-prone season that Doc Rivers recently called “one of those years.” With Green and Ben Simmons off the court, Thybulle’s defense has gone from a luxury to a necessity.
When Joel Embiid dominates on offense, the obvious solution for a defense is to double-team him -- and given Thybulle’s weaknesses offensively, it’s usually his man who heads toward Embiid.
Thybulle’s entire career will, of course, be energized by his defensive abilities. But before suffering this injury, he began to make strides offensively. Thybulle has started to successfully counter the double-teams by making himself available for Embiid as an off-ball cutter.
During his pregame media availability, Rivers expressed a similar sentiment, arguing that Thybulle has improved quite a bit when it comes to the timing and instincts necessary to be an effective cutter.
Thybulle’s defense likely makes him a lock to play in the playoffs. But can he survive offensively against the best, most methodical defenses in the league? Hopefully for the Sixers, the answer will be yes.
Con: Sixers come out flat
There’s not much to say about the Sixers’ effort early on other than that it was unacceptable. They were clearly sleepwalking, taking their injury-ridden opponent for granted. It quickly came back to bite them.
The Pelicans had full control of the game for a significant period of time. First, the Sixers allowed Willy Hernangomez and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Then Embiid and Tobias Haris were the only Sixers contributing offensively. During all of this, the Sixers showed an overall lackluster demeanor.
One game, or even one part of a game, never tells the story about an entire team. But as they jostle for favorable playoff seeding in a packed Eastern Conference, games like these need to be easy wins.
Pro: Harris and Embiid save Sixers
On nights when your supporting cast can’t get it done, you have to rely on your stars to pick up the slack. Let’s face it: Embiid does this every night, regardless of how his teammates are playing. But there have been far too many times during Harris’ Sixers tenure where he hasn’t been able to go above and beyond when needed.
However, it was Harris who kept the Sixers competitive, let alone afloat, during the first half. He scored 17 points in the half, doing so efficiently and in a variety of ways. Harris finished with 33 points and 11 rebounds on 13-19 (!) shooting from the field, including 3-3 from beyond the arc. Once the second half began, Embiid was able to help seal the deal.
Embiid’s display of greatness will likely be more memorable -- after all, in a vacuum, his performance (42 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and four blocks on just 24 field goal attempts) was more valuable. But even against this Pelicans team, the game might have gotten out of hand if not for Harris stepping up and keeping things in check. There are still reasons to be frustrated with the $180 million man right now, but he earned a whole lot of praise tonight.