The Sixers came into tonight’s contest 0-5 on the road and surrounded by tons of chatter about not just problems in their starting lineup, but also their on-court chemistry of their 3 highest lottery picks, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz, Man did they answer the bell on that tonight. They jumped out the gate on a tear.
With some great hustle plays like this one by Markelle Fultz:
And this lethal in and out cross over and then the freakish flush by Simmons below, the Sixers raced out to a 19-4 lead. Look how high Ben got!
Of course it wouldn’t be a Sixers game without the turnovers. By the end of the first quarter their lead was whittled down to 8. They bad-passed Indiana back into it quickly, but make no mistake, they came out cooking.
This is the best version of this starting lineup you’ll find, at this stage of their development at least. Embiid’s unstoppable, Fultz is creating off the dribble, and they’re getting stops and letting Simmons push in transition. Saric even made a three. Sixers up 13-2 early.
— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) November 8, 2018
Even Dario Šarić, who has been in the midst of a brutal slump, was playing well early. The second quarter was a different story, however, and some good play by Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and Tyreke Evans cut the Sixers’ lead. At one point the Pacers even took a five point lead in the period with a Myles Turner jam. By the half the game was knotted at 50 apiece. The Sixers really didn’t have an answer for Victor Oladipo in the first half. He has apparently reached superstardom.
Oladipo has 24 points 2 blocks 1 steal on 10-16 from the field and 2/5 from 3. It’s half time.
I’m starting to think I’d take him over Paul George, Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan and Brad Beal.
Don’t @ me
— Liberty Ballers (@Liberty_Ballers) November 8, 2018
If you expected the Sixers to lay down in the second half, however, you were wrong. Dario Šarić nailed a couple 3’s, Markelle Fultz hit a pull up, threw down a dunk and hit Covington for a big three. Simmons was in attack mode, and the Sixers were battling a tough opponent they may very well see come playoff time. Surprisingly, the Sixers took a 7 point lead into the 4th. The defense was consistent, even though they were turning it over and their passes were not always crisp. They never let Myles Turner find a rhythm, and he was the player who dropped 25 points on 9/12 shooting the last time these teams met during the regular season last year.
To start the 4th, Brett Brown went with Markelle Fultz and Landry Shamet and the Sixers kept pouring it on. Fultz hit Covington and Embiid for a pair of dunks. And they dug their heels in and played stifling defense. After some good ball movement and a pair of 3’s by Shamet and Šarić, the Sixers found themselves in rarefied air for this young season, up 17 on the road! Raise your hand if you saw that coming.
The Pacers didn’t go away quietly though. They pushed back and cut the lead down to 9 with 4 minutes to go. Brett Brown called a timeout and designed a gorgeous play where Embiid found Simmons for this alley-oop lay up:
The Pacers cut it down to 8 with 2 minutes to go, but the Sixers had an answer defensively each time and iced it at the line. It was a great team win in a tough spot.
Here’s the final box score:
Weirdly, the Sixers didn’t have an offensive rebound until deep into the 3rd quarter. Also, for a game in which they played so well, they still had loads of sloppy plays, and wound up with more than their usual amount of turnovers per game, which is already 4th worst in the league. That’s counterintuitively a positive sign; there is still plenty of room for improvement, even in a big big win.
The big story was how well they played together, Šarić coming through finally with some key shots, Embiid’s consistency, Covington’s overall stellar play, Simmons aggressiveness, and the exciting play of both Markelle Fultz and Landry Shamet in particular. Shamet really looked natural out there and delivered big shots when J.J. Redick was not hitting. He appeared to hurt his back at one point, but returned.
Robert Covington had a game high +18 and it showed. Victor Oladipo had a game high 36 points but it doesn’t reflect how good Covington was. Rob is currently one of the leaders in steals in the NBA and his presence was all over this game tonight.
Robert Covington vs. Pacers in 36 minutes:
13 PTS, 5-of-9 FG
— Jake Hyman (@RealJakeHyman) November 8, 2018
The Sixers next play Friday, November 9th against the 6-5 Hornets at Wells Fargo in Philadelphia on NBATV.