Pros and Cons: Sixers vs. Knicks
The good and bad from the Sixers’ visit to MSG.
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.
Riding high after their brilliant debut in Minnesota, the new-look Sixers traveled to New York for a contest against the struggling Knicks. Here’s what jumped out to me tonight:
Pro: James Harden, dimer
It’s been obvious since the moment that Harden first stepped on the floor donning a Sixers uniform, that he is not only the best passer that Joel Embiid has ever played with, but the best passer that anyone on this team has ever played with.
Harden dished out 10 dimes in the first half alone (!), making brilliant pass after brilliant pass, delivering his teammates wide open shots from beyond the arc and at the rim, and sparking transition opportunities.
Harden even generated easy buckets for Matisse Thybulle, the team’s least effective offensive player, who was able to connect with Harden on multiple backdoor cuts.
Harden is not just a great passer — he’s also a versatile one. Virtually every pass a basketball player can make, he has mastered. And that is part of what allows him to dramatically raise the floor of any team’s offense.
Con: Tobias Harris struggling to fit in
When you’re playing alongside Harden and Embiid, being a willing spot-up shooter is a must. For Tobias Harris, this is the part of the adjustment to his new-look team that is most difficult.
Harris is by nature a thinker, a methodical player who likes to survey the floor and calculate before making his move. But that’s not at all what this team needs from him at this point.
Harris needs to take a page out of the playbook of his backup, Georges Niang, who understands that his value is almost entirely derived from his ability to fire away from beyond the arc without hesitation. Of course, Harris is a more complete offensive player than someone like Niang, but when playing with Harden -- which he will likely be doing in nearly all of his minutes moving forward due to the way Doc Rivers has crafted the team’s substitution patterns -- he must become significantly more decisive.
Whether or not Harris can alter his style to fit alongside this team’s superstar duo will be one of the most important storylines to follow over the rest of the regular season.
Pro: Sixers live at the line… again
Here’s what I wrote after Harden’s Sixers debut on Friday night:
“All it took this new-look roster was one game to show how lethal they have the potential to be offensively. For the most part, everyone did their jobs well, and it all coalesced into a fantastic team showing.
It all starts with the two fulcrums of this offense, Harden and Embiid. Embiid’s vertical gravity and Harden’s brilliant passing led the way as this team showed its tremendous upside.
When the Sixers added Harden, we all knew it was coming -- the Sixers have instantly become the most foul-drawing-happy team in the NBA, thanks to the incredible grifting duo of Harden and Embiid.
Tonight, Embiid and Harden combined for 19 free throw attempts in the first half alone, immediately displaying how difficult it will be to defend both of them at once when they share the floor. When both players naturally attract the attention of an entire defense, it becomes borderline impossible to put together a coherent defensive game-plan.
This game was slowed down at times, sure, but come on — you have to admit, this was as glorious as it was hilarious.”
This came after the Sixers shot 36 free throws in total, with 22 of them being attempts made by Embiid and Harden.
Tonight, the Sixers got to the line even more, shooting 44 free throw attempts, including 10 from Harden and 27 — yes, 27 — from Embiid.
In fact, both Knicks rotation centers today -- Mitchell Robinson and Jericho Sims -- fouled out with more than eight minutes left in the game.
Even our most ambitious expectations could not have accounted for the duo to be this proficient at drawing fouls this early. And yet… here we are.