Sixers snap 4-game losing skid against Thunder in big-time fashion following tough previous week

Gutterman’s Sixers Analysis: Week of April 19-April 26, 2021.

Matisse+Thybulle%2C+Tobias+Harris%2C+Embiid%2FSimmons%2C+and+Danny+Green.

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Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris, Embiid/Simmons, and Danny Green.

The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off a very difficult and pretty woeful week here in this 2021 NBA Season. The Sixers had 4 games last week, and lost all of them, which put them on a 4-game losing streak, their longest losing streak of the season. Philly was banged up with injuries pretty much all of last week, which is definitely one significant contributing factor of their struggling performances. Starting power forward Tobias Harris missed both Monday’s and Wednesday’s games last week due to lingering right knee discomfort he’s been experiencing. All-Star guard Ben Simmons missed all 4 games last week due to an apparently pretty bad flu-like illness, that was not COVID-19. As if Simmons’ and Harris’ absences from the lineup weren’t enough, guards Furkan Korkmaz and Seth Curry also each missed games due to nagging injuries.

 

Last week started on Monday Apr. 19th, at home, against the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry. Curry torched the Sixer defense for 49 points and heroically led his Warriors to a 107-96 win over Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center.

 

The Sixers’ next opponent on the schedule was the red-hot Phoenix Suns, as they’d host the likes of Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Ayton. While the Suns were at completely full strength with their full healthy roster for this game, the Sixers were extremely short-handed, missing Simmons, Harris, and Seth Curry. In their places, Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz, and Matisse Thybulle got the starting jobs. The Sixers truly put up a heck of a fight, and battled extremely hard, but Booker, Paul, and the Suns proved to be just a bit too much to handle, and the Sixers lost by just 3 points, 116-113.

 

After these two very tough losses, the Sixers headed west to Wisconsin for a quick 2-game series with the Milwaukee Bucks. To say the least, the first game of the set on Thurs. April 22nd was a complete and total disaster for the Sixers. The game started with the Bucks absolutely pouncing on Philly and taking a 10-0 lead on the scoreboard in just the first 90 seconds of the game. From there, after that miserable beginning, the Bucks, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, simply kept piling on the points in bunches, and the Sixers could do nothing to stop them. The Sixers trailed for the large majority of this game by between 12-18 points pretty much the whole way along, just before making a wild and quick surge right in the final few minutes of the 4th quarter, once the game was already out of reach. However, stunningly, the 76ers only ended up losing the game by just 6 points after winning the final quarter 30-16. 

 

The second game against Milwaukee, and the final game of the week, came on Saturday afternoon, April 24th. Still without Simmons in the lineup, the Sixers remained short-handed. However, it wasn’t just Simmons who Philly was missing for this game; unfortunately, Joel Embiid began experiencing some shoulder pain right before tip-off, so was scratched from the starting lineup just a few minutes before this game’s start. This was quite obviously a major blow for the Sixers, and pretty much derailed any chance they may have had of winning this game. 

Despite Embiid’s absence, the Sixers truly did stand their ground in the first half and battled hard, only down 10 at the end of two quarters. Dwight Howard and Shake Milton had stepped up as leaders and kept the Sixers within arms-reach. The Sixers did a somewhat decent job of containing Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, the Bucks’ two most prominent offensive threats throughout the first half. However, once the 3rd quarter came, everything deteriorated massively for Philadelphia, as they got outscored by 13 in the period, and thus trailed by 23 points at the beginning of the final quarter. The 4th quarter was just as bad for the Sixers, as they gave up a whopping 46 points in the frame, and ended up losing the game by 38 points. It was a devastating and pretty humiliating loss for the Sixers, but the result was not really that unexpected, considering Simmons, Embiid, and Furkan Korkmaz all were absent from the lineup.

 

After this frustrating 2-game road set in Milwaukee, the Sixers returned home to Philly to take on the tanking and miserably-bad Oklahoma City Thunder on April 26th. The Thunder came into this matchup on a whopping 13-game losing streak, certainly the most struggling young team in the NBA. The Sixers had to take advantage of this great opportunity to dominate a woefully bad team, and, indeed, that is exactly what they did. 

 

The Sixers dominated the first half, and were quite truly in control of the pace of the game for seemingly all 48 minutes. Philly led by 15 points at halftime. After coming out of the halftime break firing on all cylinders to start the 3rd quarter, by the middle of the 3rd, the Sixers had seized the game and already had the win virtually locked up still with roughly a quarter and a half remaining in the game. In the 4th, the Sixers led at one point by as much as 37, all with bench reserves on the floor. All five Sixer starters checked out of the game in the middle of the 3rd quarter, with the team up 25+ points, and thus never had to return to the court to protect their lead.. The solid Sixer bench crew, led by rookie guard Tyrese Maxey, was able to do just that, and then some. 

Ultimately, the Sixers won by a final score of 121-90, finally grabbing their 40th win of the season, snapping their 4-game losing streak, and handing the Oklahoma City Thunder their 14th consecutive loss. It was a refreshing and solid victory for the Sixers, who truly needed a win to boost their morale after taking some rough hits last week.

 

With just 2.5 weeks now remaining in the regular season before Playoffs begin, the 76ers have 11 games left on their schedule. All 11 games are against teams that the Sixers have a better- and in some cases far better- record than this season. They will take on the Atlanta Hawks twice to continue this week, as well as the Miami Heat on May 13. From Sunday May 2 to Saturday May 8, the Sixers will play 5 games in a span of 7 nights. This includes a 3-game road trip, starting on May 2 in San Antonio to take on the Spurs, then to Chicago the following night (May 3) to take on the Bulls, then right back to Texas on May 5 to battle the Houston Rockets. Ultimately, it will be 11 games played in just 19 days— a lot of basketball in a very condensed period of time without much rest or off-nights. However, all 30 NBA teams are in this same position with the shortened season schedule, so the Sixers are not really at a disadvantage. 

The 76ers are looking to wrap up these last few weeks of the regular season on a good note, and possibly grab the No. 1 seed in the East as the battle for it with the Brooklyn Nets. 

As the catchphrase says, “Here they come, Philadelphia.”