Sixers observations

3 observations after Maxey-Hield duo, Ricky Council IV help Sixers top Wizards

Council was fantastic Saturday night in the Sixers' 119-113 win

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WASHINGTON — The Sixers snapped their four-game losing streak Saturday night thanks to the Tyrese Maxey-Buddy Hield backcourt and a hard-nosed, powerful, awfully impressive performance by rookie Ricky Council IV.

With a 119-113 victory over the Wizards at Capital One Arena, the Sixers improved to 31-21.

They were missing Joel Embiid (left knee meniscus procedure), De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine stress response), Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise) and Mo Bamba (right knee soreness).

Six Sixers scored in double figures, including Council (19 points, 10 rebounds). 

Maxey recorded 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Hield had 23 points, six assists and four steals.

The 9-43 Wizards got 25 points and nine assists from Tyus Jones. 

The Sixers will visit the Cavs on Monday night. Here are observations on their win over Washington:

First look at Hield-Maxey duo 

Two Jones three-pointers put the Sixers behind 6-0 for a second straight night.

Hield helped them gain a foothold in the game by a draining a three off of a Maxey handoff. The Sixers ran some nice dribble handoff/pitch action with their Maxey-Hield starting backcourt. Clearly, with good spacing around them and the defense a bit on its heels, that’s a hard pairing to handle. 

Kelly Oubre Jr. scored a couple of early buckets, but Tobias Harris missed his first three field goals and the Sixers struggled to generate regular points. In his return from an illness, Maxey started 0 for 4 and couldn’t convert a few close-range looks. He got shorter stints than usual and was obviously not at full health.

Still, both Maxey and Hield got into a groove early in the second quarter and the Sixers’ offense began to hum in both half court and transition. Following a Hield lefty layup, Maxey sunk a pull-up three to give the Sixers a 40-28 edge. Though the Sixers’ offense was uneven, Hield and Maxey each seemed comfortable running stack pick-and-rolls . Hield was sharp as a cutter, screener and passer. Simple, quick decisions are his norm, which is a plus for any offense. 

Council outstanding

Sixers head coach Nick Nurse had indicated pregame that Bamba’s absence meant a window had opened for Kenneth Lofton Jr. minutes.

However, the 21-year-old was ultimately outside of Nurse’s rotation. Cameron Payne served Maxey's backup. KJ Martin and Council were the Sixers’ only two other second-unit players. 

Council and Martin were each excellent late in the first quarter, playing with energy, physicality, defensive effort and pace that helped the Sixers build a lead. With those two on the court, the Sixers immediately looked more forceful on both ends in transition. 

The 6-foot-6 Martin held up as a small-ball five and stayed out of foul trouble. Council drew free throws, made tough shots through contact, and defended hard. After Martin stripped the ball from Dani Avdija, Council pushed the ball ahead, pulled off a slick in-and-out move, and laid the ball in. The Council-Martin duo totaled 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting and four rebounds in the first quarter. 

Though Council and Maxey both finished tricky, timely layups late in the second quarter, the Sixers exuded fatigue as halftime neared and Washington trailed by just three points to start the third.

Sixers grit out much-needed W 

Despite Hield being the only Sixer with anything cooking from long range, the team raised its level in the third quarter. Paul Reed, Martin and Council all beat Washington on the offensive glass. 

Reed shot 6 for 8 from the field Saturday night. The Sixers logically ran most of their offense through their guards, but Reed was smart when he caught the ball at the nail and elbows. He didn’t force or rush things.

Washington hung around in the second half despite Maxey briefly catching fire. A Corey Kispert three cut the Sixers' lead down to 98-96.

Nurse turned to a lineup that featured Council and Martin, and that unit defended well, scrambling around and forcing the Wizards to work. Council scored a scrappy hoop inside, then broke free for a fast-break slam and pounded his chest in celebration.

Council outmuscled Jordan Poole for an offensive board and finished off a put-back lay-in with 45.9 seconds left. The Sixers badly needed a win and the rookie played a massive role in hauling them to victory in D.C.

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