Sixers observations

3 observations after Sixers storm back from 35-point deficit but fall to Pelicans

The Sixers suffered a 103-95 defeat Friday night at Wells Fargo Center.

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The Sixers couldn't overcome several major injuries and an enormous deficit Friday night.

They made an unlikely second-half charge but ultimately fell to a 103-95 defeat at Wells Fargo Center to the Pelicans.

After a third straight loss, the team sits at 35-28. New Orleans is now 38-25.

Tobias Harris (21 points) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (20 points) were the Sixers' top scorers.

Pelicans star Zion Williamson posted 23 points and 12 rebounds. Naji Marshall added 19 points and Brandon Ingram tallied 17.

The Sixers remained without Joel Embiid (left knee meniscus procedure), Tyrese Maxey (concussion), De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine bone stress) and Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise). 

Nicolas Batum was also scratched because of left foot soreness. 

Maxey, who’s been out since the Sixers’ loss Tuesday to the Nets, worked out at the arena Friday both following the team’s morning shootaround and about 90 minutes before tip-off. Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said that Maxey’s been progressing through the NBA’s concussion protocols. 

The Sixers will start a two-game mini-series against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.

Here are observations on their loss to the Pelicans:

Sixers sink into a giant hole

The Sixers’ first three field goals attempts all came behind the arc and they missed each one. Meanwhile, Williamson opened the scoring on a driving layup. 

That general trend continued throughout the first quarter. The Sixers kept firing up threes, several of which were hasty and well-contested. The Pelicans’ drive-and-kick game was sharper than the Sixers’, and players like Williamson and CJ McCollum clearly posed serious threats whenever they decided to attack downhill. 

Oubre scored his team’s first six points. Outside of him, the Sixers began 0 for 8 from the field. They finished the first quarter with just 15 points on 6-for-25 shooting.

Buddy Hield had an especially rough first stint. He missed three three-point tries and subbed out after a sequence where he conceded an easy driving layup to McCollum and then fumbled a Kyle Lowry handoff out of bounds. 

Of course, the Sixers had an abysmal start across the board and New Orleans dominated all facets of the first period. The Pelicans’ lead ballooned to 27 points early in the second after two Marshall threes and a pair of Williamson free throws.

Horrendous shooting one of Sixers’ many first-half problems 

Mo Bamba started against Pelicans big man Jonas Valanciunas and Paul Reed entered at the 7:23 mark of the first quarter.

Reed’s typical scrappiness and offensive rebounding were among the Sixers’ few first-half positives. He recorded four offensive boards in the first quarter, but even most close-range, put-back looks weren’t going down for the Sixers. 

Some of the Sixers’ loss can be chalked up to a randomly terrible performance on open shots. The home fans booed after KJ Martin air balled a wide-open three long and when Hield couldn’t convert a fast-break layup. The Sixers missed 18 of their first 19 three-point shots and trailed by as many as 35 points in the second quarter.

The team did very little to compensate for its ice-cold shooting in the first half. The Sixers’ offense was often noticeably out of sync against both man-to-man and zone defense. And though the Pelicans made some difficult shots, the Sixers regularly let them play in transition and didn’t disrupt New Orleans’ rhythm much in the half court. 

Sixers improbably make it interesting 

The bar was low, but the Sixers were much better out of halftime and didn't treat the game like a lost cause.

Lowry stepped in to take third-quarter charges on both Ingram and Williamson. Hield found Oubre open on a backdoor cut and drained a triple. The Sixers played good, high-effort defense and New Orleans’ shooters cooled off.

An and-one Harris layup trimmed the Sixers’ deficit to 19 points. The crowd was firmly back behind the Sixers when Hield hit a side-step three that got the Pelicans’ lead down to 71-55. 

Williamson re-entered and helped New Orleans regain control with his characteristic freight-train driving and finishing through contact.

Still, the Sixers managed another run in the fourth quarter with Williamson sitting and impressively sustained it once he returned. Reed drilled a three with a little under two minutes remaining, Harris drove in for a layup, and the Pelicans looked panicky down the stretch.

However, their 35-point advantage ultimately remained safe. Williamson delivered enough superstar plays, including a big block on Oubre, and the Sixers dropped to 6-11 since Embiid's injury.

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