Pros and Cons: Sixers vs. Magic
Three thoughts after Sixers-Magic.
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.
Looking to rebound after a brutal blowout at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets, the Sixers traveled to Orlando for a matchup against a young Magic team. Here’s what’s on my mind following tonight’s game.
Pro: Tobias Harris getting back on track?
Since the arrival of James Harden, Harris has really been the only Sixer whose game has not been elevated to a great extent — in fact, he’s taken a step or two backwards since being assigned a new role.
As I’ve written about plenty of times, playing alongside James Harden and Joel Embiid requires quick processing speed and rapid decision-making. Unfortunately for Harris, neither of those are strengths of his.
Harris is a meticulous thinker who enjoys surveying the floor before making a calculated decision. But as we’ve seen, that kind of player is not compatible with Harden and Embiid.
That’s why tonight’s performance from Harris was so encouraging — Harris had arguably his best game since the Harden trade, and he did so because he adjusted the way he plays, being much more decisive and assertive, giving the Sixers’ struggling offense a big boost to the tune of 26 efficiently-produced points — including a huge corner three in overtime.
Harris has a long way to go before becoming the player the new-look Sixers need him to be, but tonight was a step in the right direction.
Con: Thursday’s concerns resurface
After Thursday night’s loss to Brooklyn, I wrote about Harden and Embiid struggling mightily to get things going:
“Harden has been absolutely dominant pretty much from the jump since joining the Sixers.
Tonight, he was… less dominant. Harden shot just 3-17 from the field, including an almost unbelievable 0-10 line on two-point attempts. He only dished out five assists and turned it over four times.
And somehow, the eye test was every bit as discouraging as the box score line. Harden spent the entirety of the game failing to generate good looks for anyone, including himself, and missing many of the shots you can typically count on him to knock down.
Unfortunately, things don’t end there. Joel Embiid’s 19 free throw attempts represented the one positive sign from the offense all night long, and he failed to register a single free throw attempt in the second half altogether.
From the field, Embiid was uncharacteristically poor, going a putrid 5-17 from the floor, including four turnovers to just two assists.
This is not a sign of things to come. We will rarely see either player struggle as much as they did tonight, let alone both of them in the same game.
But in the end, it comes down to this: Brooklyn’s duo of superstars came ready to show out. Embiid and Harden did not.”
Unfortunately for the Sixers, neither Embiid or Harden were anywhere near their best selves offensively tonight, which made things a whole lot tougher for the rest of the team.
Embiid was able to make up for his shortcomings at the free throw line. Additionally, I saw little issue with Embiid’s process -- for the most part, it was shots simply not falling.
Harden also did damage at the free throw line, but he just doesn’t seem to be playing with the right mindset right now. He’s always been able to masterfully draw fouls, but over the last two games it feels as if he’s been focused more on drawing fouls than generating good shots — for himself and for his teammates.
Again, there is no reason to sound the alarm. But as the two superstars figure out how they fit together during the final month of the regular season, it’s worth monitoring over the next stretch of games.
Pro: Sixers execute down the stretch, fend off Magic
Orlando led this game for nearly the entirety of the contest. But, thanks to some fourth quarter resilience and improved execution down the stretch in overtime, it was the Sixers who led when the clock struck zero.
The late-game surge started with Georges Niang, who hit several big threes and a few floaters to keep the Sixers afloat. Then Embiid, despite his struggles earlier in the night, hit some big shots and free throws to give his team a lift that they desperately needed.
When overtime came around, the Sixers' talent advantage outweighed Orlando’s effort that was superior for most of the game’s 53 minutes.
Despite Orlando’s Cole Anthony hitting a flurry of threes, the Sixers were able to rise to the occasion and just barely get the job done after Harris’ clutch corner three that put them in front.
This certainly was not the ideal archetype of win. But a win is a win, and sometimes you need to take home the ugly ones with no complaints.