After JJ Redick hit a rainbow, and-one three to give the Sixers a lead with 5.6 seconds left in overtime, Blake Griffin got an and-one bucket of his own at the rim to hand them a 133-132 loss. Joel Embiid missed the potential go-ahead three-pointer at the buzzer.
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Griffin scored a career-high 50 points as the Sixers’ modest two-game win streak was halted and they were kept winless away from the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers are now 2-2 on the season.
What happened in the Joel Embiid-Andre Drummond clash? How did Markelle Fultz look at the point?
We’ve got it all right here in our observations.
• The Sixers had to stop one guy all night long and couldn’t do it.
Griffin went bonkers right from the opening tip. He scored 28 points in the first half alone and didn’t cool down after intermission.
He shot 20 of 35 for those 50 points and added 14 rebounds to go with six assists.
At some point you have to slow down the one-man show. Not this time.
• While Griffin spent the game making a personal highlight reel, the frontcourt battle to watch was always going to be Embiid-Drummond.
The two have shared words before, but supposedly squashed their beef.
“It's never hard feelings,” Drummond said last season. “When was the last time you seen two real big men go at it? It was just a great matchup, I look forward to playing him again. Obviously a hell of a player. I have nothing negative to say about him.”
Well, Drummond might change his tune after Tuesday night. Embiid dominated the matchup yet again with 33 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks in the loss. He also wasn’t shy about letting Drummond know he got the upper hand, especially when he got Drummond ejected in the fourth quarter.
But Drummond, who had 14 points and 16 boards, got the last laugh with his first win over Embiid.
• Fultz made his first NBA start at point guard with Ben Simmons sidelined because of back tightness.
It was clear very early on that Fultz is simply more comfortable at the one spot. The 20-year-old was able to have the ball in his hands and control the Sixers’ offense, instead of just drifting around the perimeter waiting for the action to come his way.
Fultz was able to pick and choose his spots as he knifed through lane for shots at the basket, pulled up from midrange and even splashed another three-pointer.
He tied a career-high 13 points on 6 of 9 shooting to go along with six boards.
It’s actually a little bittersweet of a performance because Fultz was glued to the bench down the stretch and when Simmons returns to the lineup, the second-year pro will again go back to searching for his role.
Obviously, Simmons is a generational talent and needs to have the ball to operate. But the Sixers must figure out a way to get Fultz some run at the point too without throwing off the team’s rhythm.
• With Simmons already out, Embiid picking up his second foul less than three minutes into the game was far from ideal for the Sixers.
However, the team’s bench was able to pick up the slack. Brett Brown employed a lineup of mostly reserve players for chunks of the first quarter. He used four bench guys with Robert Covington and then went with an all second-unit group of T.J. McConnell, JJ Redick, Landry Shamet, Mike Muscala and Amir Johnson.
Those guys more than held their own as they actually outscored the starters 15-13 and helped the Sixers win their first opening quarter of the season, 28-27.
• Covington’s night will be remembered for that critical foul on Griffin with 1.8 seconds left in OT, but that shouldn’t wash away a solid effort.
Always aggressive on defense, Covington’s offensive game finally matched in this one.
No, all of the shots did not go in. Still, he came out on the attack as the swingman went to the basket more times than I’ve witnessed during any game in recent memory.
He ended with 16 points (3 of 4 on three-pointers), eight rebounds and a pair of assists.
This is the version of Covington the Sixers need to see every night.
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