Coming off of a shockingly tight win against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night, the Philadelphia 76ers returned to the floor on Monday for their toughest matchup in weeks.
For the first time this season, the Memphis Grizzlies came to South Philly. Entering the matchup, the Grizzlies possessed a 31-18 record. They placed third in the Western Conference.
While the Sixers were in a similar position as they placed third in the Eastern Conference with a 30-19 record, they were dealing with some unfortunate circumstances going into the game.
Hours before the Sixers arrived at the Wells Fargo Center, the team decided to make Monday a rest night for Philadelphia’s superstar center, Joel Embiid. While the matchup the team chose to sit Embiid out certainly wasn’t ideal, the Sixers remained motivated heading into the game as they wanted revenge for the first time they faced the Grizzlies.
Back in December, the Grizzlies dominated the Embiid, Curry-less Sixers by 35 points. However, the results in the late January matchup were much different.
In the first quarter of action, Philly’s offense didn’t lose a step at all. As they scored nearly 40 points, the Sixers led the Grizzlies through one. And while the Grizzlies outscored the Sixers in the second quarter, Philadelphia still had a lead as they were up 63-58 heading into halftime.
In the third quarter, the Sixers and Grizzlies were neck and neck as Memphis outscored Philly 21-22. Despite changing the lead twice and tying the game up eight times, the Sixers maintained a four-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
Once again, the Sixers and the Grizzlies went back and forth. In the fourth quarter, the lead changed ten times. By the end of regulation, both teams needed an extra quarter to settle the score. Before overtime began, Memphis picked up one point due to a technical foul called on Doc Rivers.
Despite having a slight advantage going into overtime, the Sixers got the edge over Memphis in the extra period. Once the final five minutes were up, the Sixers came out on top with a 122-119 win over Memphis. With that victory, the Sixers pick up their 31st win of the year.
76ers vs. Grizzlies Player Observations
Lately, Thybulle’s been getting a lot of run in the starting lineup, even with Danny Green back. Although his value on offense is inconsistent, Thybulle’s defense is sometimes enough. While it wasn’t one of Thybulle’s most outstanding defensive performances, he made plays when he needed to. In 33 minutes, he scored five points while collecting three assists, one steal, and a block.
Harris has garnered criticism throughout the year as he’s struggled to step up in the absence of other key players. On Monday, he put on a performance that silenced the critics, though. In 40 minutes of action, Harris accounted for 31 points. For the majority of the matchup, he led the Sixers in scoring. Once again, Harris proved he’s getting back on the right track and is starting to look more like the borderline All-Star player he was last season.
Without Embiid in the lineup, Andre Drummond had gigantic shoes to fill. He didn’t have to go out and score over 30 points as others managed to handle that. But Drummond did need to be an impact player and he went above and beyond. In 42 minutes, Drummond collected 23 rebounds, five assists, two steals, and three blocks. While his rebounding alone was enough for the Sixers, Drummond also went 8-11 from the field and picked up 16 points.
It’s clear that ankle soreness and back stiffness has gotten the best of Curry lately, but he got it together at the right time on Monday night. Going into the fourth quarter, Curry was 0-8 from the field with zero points. In the fourth quarter alone, he collected nine points as he drained a three and went 4-6 from the field in 11 minutes. He wasn’t the sharpshooter he typically is on Monday, but Curry came alive at the right time. In addition to his fourth-quarter contributions, Curry distributed the ball well too as he collected eight assists.
Without an MVP candidate on the floor for the Sixers, somebody had to step up and become that guy. The second-year guard Tyrese Maxey rose to the occasion. From start to finish, Maxey was fearless. When the first half wrapped up, he had 16 points. By the end of regulation, Maxey had 27 points on 11-19 shooting. In overtime, the young guard didn’t slow down as he scored six of Philly’s 11 points. Offensively, he was a star as he accounted for a team-high of 33 points. But his scoring shouldn’t overshadow his defensive production as Maxey came down with three rebounds, snatched four steals, and blocked four shots.
Doc Rivers makes it known he likes to keep Niang’s playing time around 20 minutes. On Monday, he checked in for just 17 minutes. The veteran forward was a solid contributor as he scored eight points in 17 minutes. He drained 50-percent of his shots from three. You can’t ask for much more from the reserve forward.
Doc Rivers mentioned the other night that Danny Green’s on a tight minutes restriction. Green checked in for roughly 15 minutes on Saturday night but he saw his playing time increase to 25 minutes against Memphis. Similar to Niang, Green was a solid contributing veteran coming off the bench as he put an identical stat line as his teammate with 3-8 shooting from the field for eight points.
The second-year guard has struggled to make an impact this season, but he had an impressive 14-minute shift versus Memphis. From the field, Joe drained three of his five shots. He went 2-4 from beyond the arc and knocked down both of his free throws. Despite playing under 15 minutes, Joe led the Sixers’ bench in scoring as he put up ten points.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.