The Philadelphia 76ers broke their ten game losing streak to Golden State while correspondingly snapping the Warriors’ 11 game winning streak in Thursday night’s matchup. This was Philadelphia’s first victory against Golden State since 2013, and their 34th of the season.
The Philadelphia 76ers began play Thursday night sporting a 33-18 record, good for third place within the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors own the second best record in basketball and won 11 straight games. Golden State’s 7.3 point differential is 2.4 points shy of the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks’, and the Warriors entered 15-4 against the Eastern Conference. Golden State returned home after a five game road stand, which included victories against the Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards, and Indiana Pacers.
Golden State averages 119.1 points per game, first in the NBA, compared to Philadelphia’s 115.7. Furthermore, Golden State assists more than any team per game (29.3) and leads the league in blocks per game (6.4), field goal percentage (49.1), free throw percentage (82.1), as well as offensive rating, effective field goal percentage, and true shooting percentage.
Nonetheless, Philadelphia owns the second highest true shooting percentage, plus/minus, and point production in the first half. Additionally, the Sixers place fourth field goal percentage, sixth in three-point percentage, fourth in assists, second in rebounds, fifth in offensive rating, and second in net rating all within the first half.
Joel Embiid, weeks away from starting in his second All-Star game, places second in points per game among all active centers, while registering a fifth-best 6.2 plus/minus and the highest usage percentage (32.0). In the month of January, Embiid is averaging 29.4 points per game, 13.3 rebounds, and 2.17 blocks. Steve Kerr and DeMarcus Cousins alike, anticipated the duel between the 6-foot-11 center and Joel Embiid.
Steve Kerr said, “It’s rare. You don’t see it, but each guy has his own dynamic of the modern game. The ability to shoot and put the ball on the floor, make plays from the perimeter. So it’s not quite like an old-school battle down on the block. Both guys spend a lot of time on the perimeter. I think it will be fascinating to watch,” as per ESPN.com. Cousins, averaging 15.2 points, seven rebounds, and nearly four assists five games into his return with Golden State, alluded to a matchup that should be both “tough” and “fun”.
Klay Thompson, accountable for the league’s fourth highest percentage of mid range points, and Stephen Curry, averaging the second most fast break points per game, create one of the most dangerous backcourts in basketball. The Warriors were without Klay Thompson though, providing the team 34.2 minutes per game. The two combined for 346 total three pointers made prior to Thursday night. On the other hand, Sixers’ Ben Simmons places top three this season in total assists and assists per game, and Jimmy Butler ranks third in steals per game. This game that featured five players top 40 in points per game, had eight players score double-digit points.
The Philadelphia 76ers collected 24 rebounds in the first half, with the addition of 16 assists, and seven steals. However, Philadelphia turned the ball over 13 times before the second half, translating to 14 points off of turnovers for Golden State. Embiid was accountable for seven of the Sixers’ first 13 turnovers and Jimmy Butler attempted five field goals in the first half and missed all of them. Defensively, Philadelphia struggled to defend Golden State’s frequent pick and rolls, and Stephen Curry of course (23 points, 6/8 from beyond the perimeter in one half).
The Sixers wrote a different story in the second half, one that drew almost no comparisons to the first. Philadelphia held Golden State to just 44 points in the second half, and turned the ball over just six times (more than double that in the first half). The Sixers scored 14 points off of Golden State turnovers and added 13 fast break points. Despite Stephen Curry’s 41 points, all other members of Golden State combined for one three point make.
Ben Simmons dazzled in Philadelphia’s victory, forcing his way into the heart of Golden State’s defense and challenging their defenders. Simmons again proved too strong in transition, and the Warriors had no answers for the interior scoring of both him and Embiid. Embiid collected 20 rebounds, while Golden State’s entire starting five grabbed a combined 26, and poured in 26 points. Rookies Landry Shamet and Jonah Bolden factored into Philadelphia’s victory playing phenomenal in limited minutes. Shamet was confident taking a defender off of his dribble and shot well, while Bolden provided impactful defense off of the bench.
Turnovers and defending accurate shooters at the guard position remain lingering problems for Philadelphia, and Golden State tried to gash these wounds. However, Philadelphia won both the third and fourth quarter, translating to a crucial victory against one of basketball’s most feared teams. The Sixers ended a ten game losing streak to Golden State and also ended Golden State’s 11 game winning streak. Philadelphia now has a two game lead over the Indiana Pacers, and take on the Sacramento Kings on Saturday for their final stop of the West Coast road trip.