Pros and Cons: Sixers vs. Bucks
The good and bad from Sixers-Bucks.
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.
Tonight, the Sixers hosted the Milwaukee Bucks in a pivotal game that could help determine seeding in the Eastern Conference as well as the MVP chances of both Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Here’s what’s on my mind tonight:
Pro: James Harden and Embiid developing a go-to action
Forming a coherent partnership within a basketball team is hard to do. It takes two players who aren’t just skilled, but also able to leverage their talent into making things easier for others.
We’ve seen some successes and some failures to form a two-man bond here. What comes to mind first is the rapport Embiid had with JJ Redick, a two-man game predicated upon dribble hand-offs that forced the defense to pick their poison.
So far in Harden’s tenure, he and Embiid haven’t always shared the floor for the majority of games. But they’ve been playing together a lot more recently, and in turn have started to build noteworthy chemistry on the floor.
Their primary form of offensive action right now is a pick-and-roll where Embiid screens for Harden and rolls to the free throw line, where Harden will typically hit him with a pocket pass enabling an Embiid jumper or pump fake against a scrambling defender
In the last several minutes of their 37-point second quarter, Harden and Embiid basically spammed that action over and over, and Milwaukee’s bigs -- most notably, an aging Serge Ibaka -- simply didn’t have the wherewithal to contain it.
We’ve seen these plays work for stretches over the last month or so. But I don’t think it had ever been as frequent and effective as it was tonight.
As the Sixers’ superstar duo continues to develop their two-man game, be on the lookout for a lot more of this.
Pro: Harden finds the happy medium
When you watch Harden play, his historically-great scoring is what jumps out first. But don’t forget Harden is also one of the very best passers on the planet.
Since joining the Sixers, Harden has oftentimes struggled to consistently keep his scoring and playmaking for others going, in an attempt to be assertive while not hogging the ball.
Sometimes that’s led to over-aggression, but the more common outcome has been passivity as a scorer that strips him of monumental value.
Tonight, Harden did his best job in a long time of striking the right balance between the two excellent facets of his game -- and he looked the best he has in a while by far.
Harden’s half-court scoring was huge for the Sixers as they attempted to hang onto their lead. But what made this night special from him was that he was able to also integrate his teammates, frequently setting guys up for good looks.
We’ll see a lot of games in which Harden’s scoring is on point. We’ll also see a lot of games in which he leaves a massive mark with his passing. But at his absolute best, Harden is the guy we saw tonight: a brilliant mastermind who is nearly unmatched when it comes to the two most important aspects of an offensive player’s game.
Con: Sixers fail to execute in fourth quarter
The Sixers entered tonight’s fourth quarter with an eight-point lead. Predictably, they blew that lead in the final period.
There’s not a whole lot to say. Milwaukee hit some big shots and the Sixers missed out on prime opportunities to extend their lead.
Embiid and Harden, despite having very good nights, failed to come up big down the stretch, each having a few key misses.
As this team tries to find its new identity, it is imperative that they gain as much late-game experience. But at some point, that needs to become winning experience.
Can they figure this out by the playoffs? The answer will determine their ultimate fate.