“He’s a Force of Nature!” Four Observations from Sixers 109, Clippers 105

If the Sixers shoot 21.9% from three and turn the ball over 20 times, can they win a game?

Yes, yes they can.

They can do it on the strength of their “big three”– Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and the soon-to-be paid Robert Covington.

The trio was excellent on Monday night/Tuesday morning, scoring 85 of the Sixers’ 109 points. They snagged 34 rebounds and added 10 assists with 5 steals to boot. Those contributions covered for poor nights from Dario Saric and JJ Redick, who combined to shoot 4-18 from the field and 1-12 from three-point range. The Sixers bench added only 12 points.

But that’s life in the NBA. You need your superstars to carry the load in these games, and they got it done when it mattered most, scoring the team’s final 11 points, which included six-straight free-throws.

 

1) They cannot guard me

Joel Embiid finished with a game-high 32 points on 11-20 shooting. He only hit one of five three-pointers and turned it over four times, but he spent the majority of the contest battling down low, grabbing rebounds, and making life difficult for DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed.

Reed committed a flagrant-1 on Joel in the first half and Jordan fouled out late in the fourth. Embiid can’t put defenders in those situations when he’s settling for mid-range jumpers, and last night he didn’t, playing more like the dynamic and assertive big man we saw last season.

He said it himself:

He also timed a perfect foul at the end of the game, grabbing Lou Williams while up by three and preventing a chance for a game-tying shot.

After the game, Embiid admitted that he’s been “off” this season:

“I haven’t been playing at the level I was playing at last year. Today I just wanted to come out and go back to my old self and figure it out, figure the offense out and figure out how to play with my teammates. I think I did a better job today.”

This is the clip that everyone is talking about from last night, a pump fake that sold Jordan and allowed Embiid to slide around for a dunk:

Later, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer was shown in the stands, mouthing the words, “He’s a force of nature.”

Correct.

Embiid also showed smarts in other situations.

This I thought was one of those plays, where he slashed to the basket, got the ball down low, then quickly passed out of a double team to spark some really nice ball movement for his team:

If Covington hits that, we’re slinging that play all over social media.

We’ve seen Joel try to bulldoze his way through that trap this season. On Saturday he tried to pass through it. Last night, he passed around it, putting his teammates in a better shooting position.

 

2) The Ben Simmons dunk game

Not a great shooter? Just dunk the ball. Worked for Shaquille O’Neal back in the day.

The hardest part here is picking what dunk I would like to show here, because I can’t pick all seven of them, can I?

I think this one was the most impressive, considering just how tight the window is and the fact that Simmons isn’t even facing the basket:

Simmons didn’t score a non-dunk field goal until 8:45 in the fourth.

This is what that looks like on the shot chart:

He finished with 22, 12, 4, and 5 turnovers.

One of the game’s head-scratching moments involved a technical Simmons received on a third quarter dunk, when he was whistled for hanging on the rim:

Huh?

I think about what Draymond Green said the other night about the double technical fouls after the Embiid and Kevin Durant jawing episode – let ’em play! There’s no mouthing off here. There’s no taunting. Simmons and Williams are both laughing after the play. Simmons isn’t hanging over an opponent and he’s not being an asshole, so what’s the issue?

This was Brett Brown’s reaction:

 

3) Rock Covington

He was 5-8 from three-point range last night and shot 9-12 overall, adding 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals. And Covington only committed three fouls, showing a lot of discipline in an area where he sometimes has issues.

I honestly think the most impressive stat was his 8-8 mark at the free-throw line, which included four straight foul shots to ice the game.

His biggest field goal was the three-ball that gave the Sixers a lead with just 30 seconds left on the clock.

Watch him lose Williams in a high ball screen and drift to the opposite wing:

It’s strange, Covington’s three-point shooting is kind of like the early season Eagles. I’m sitting here waiting for a drop-off that just hasn’t happened yet.

Through 13 games, he’s still shooting at a 50% clip, converting half of his 96 attempts:

It’s fun to watch. He’s playing at an incredibly high level.

 

4) Richaun Holmes

He didn’t play last night. Amir Johnson gave the Sixers 4, 3, and 2 in 12 minutes off the bench, finishing -19. Embiid played a career-high 36 minutes.

Not sure if this was a matchup thing, or if Holmes still isn’t 100% yet, or if Brown is a little down on him after recent performances. With the way Embiid was playing last night, they really didn’t need much from their bench bigs.

It’s not always going to be the case. It’s sort of like the TLC and Justin Anderson situation; one of the bigs has to establish himself over the other and provide some quality off the bench, because they’re just not getting it right now.

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