GRADES: Scorching Clippers burn the Sixers

Ben Simmons, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Ben Simmons, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports /

Saturday’s contest in LA showcased two of the NBA’s best and hottest teams, the Sixers and the Clippers.

Both teams entered the game on four-game winning streaks despite injuries to starting centers Joel Embiid and Serge Ibaka, who were both out again tonight. With two strong defensive centers out of the game, this contest turned into an offensive showcase.

Without Embiid, the Sixers were torched by Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Terance Mann, and the LA Clippers.

The Sixers jumped out to a 19-9 lead in the first. Tobias Harris was cooking early, jumping out to 11 points on a variety of pullup jumpers. Ben Simmons was all over the court, contributing eight points and five boards while dictating the pace. The Sixers shot well in the first (12-19 FGs) but turned the ball over five times, allowing the Clippers to pull the game within one at the end of the quarter, 30-29.

The second quarter was all offense for the Clippers. Terance Mann got the quarter started with his energy, finishing with 13 points at the half, more than double his 5.5 ppg average. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George finished the quarter strong, combining for 31 points and eight assists in the first half and leading the Clippers to a 65-60 lead at the half. Shake Milton helped stabilize the bench offense with nine points of his own at the half.

Unfortunately, the refs decided to take over the game in the third quarter. The calls were fairly even, but 19 third-quarter fouls took the flow out of the game. The choppy play took the Sixers out of their rhythm, leading to multiple turnovers and no offensive flow. On the other hand, the Clippers continued their hot offense, scoring 32 in the third and taking a 97-84 lead into the fourth.

The fourth quarter quickly turned into garbage time, with both Dwight Howard and Simmons leaving the game early. Dwight was ejected just a few minutes into the fourth for arguing with the refs and Simmons picked up his sixth foul just a few moments later. The Clippers got the lead up to nineteen (108-89) midway through the fourth after outscoring the Sixers 97-68 after the slow start, effectively ending the game.

Leonard and George dominated both ends of the game, finishing with 28 points, four assists, four rebounds, and three steals for Kawhi and 24 points, nine assists, nine rebounds, and three steals for PG. Mann provided the spark off the bench, finishing with 23 points on 10-12 shooting from the field.

The story of the game was a combination of the Sixers making too many mistakes and the Clippers’ offense looking elite when the jump shots are falling. The Sixers finished the game with 16 turnovers and 27 fouls, both too many if you want to win against an elite team like the Clippers. Also, when the Clippers shoot this well from every area of the court, there isn’t much you can do:

With Embiid out and Tony Bradley being traded at the deadline, the Sixers chose to go small when Dwight Howard was out. This worked out well offensively but really hampered the Sixers defense. The Sixers’ defense is at its full potential when an elite rim protector is in the game, allowing the perimeter defenders to get more aggressive. Ultimately, it was a great offensive performance by the Clippers, something the Sixers will need to learn to cope with come the playoffs.

Philadelphia 76ers. BEN SIMMONS. C. . PG

26 mins | 15 pts | 7 reb | 2 ast | 1 stl | 0 blk | 6 TO | 6-10 FG | 0-0 3PT| 3-5 FT | 6 PF | –12 |

Ben had a great start for the game, going for eight points and five boards in the first, but it was all downhill from there. Simmons’ night was cut short after he fouled out early in the fourth. Overall, Simmons didn’t get his teammates involved as well as usual and had six turnovers. Not his best performance.

TOBIAS HARRIS. A. . PF. Philadelphia 76ers

33 mins | 29 pts | 7 reb | 6 ast | 0 stl | 0 blk | 4 TO | 13-19 FG | 1-3 3PT| 2-2 FT | 2 PF | –15 |

Tobias Harris was one of the few bright spots in this game. Harris got wherever he wanted with the ball and hit a variety of pullup jump shots and layups. Harris was often matched up with Kawhi but still had some success, showing his development this season.

B-. . C. Philadelphia 76ers. DWIGHT HOWARD

19 mins | 9 pts | 11 reb | 1 ast | 1 stl | 0 blk | 2 TO | 0-1 FG | 0-0 3PT| 9-14 FT | 4 PF | –6 |

Dwight Howard provided plenty of energy, falling one point short of a double-double and shooting well from the free-throw line. He was the only Sixer who provided any rim protection with Embiid out and Tony Bradley and Vincent Poirier traded. Unfortunately, Dwight does get knocked down a grade for the ejection, his second game in a row being ejected.

B. . SG. Philadelphia 76ers. SHAKE MILTON

21 mins | 16 pts | 4 reb | 1 ast | 1 stl | 0 blk | 3 TO | 6-11 FG | 0-1 3PT| 4-5 FT | 1 PF | –10 |

Shake Milton had a solid overall game, providing an offensive spark off the bench. Shake put pressure on the Clippers’ defense by attacking the rim in the pick-and-roll, scoring 16 points primarily on layups and short jumpers. Shake did get attacked on defense a bit, so not his best game on that end.

. SF. Philadelphia 76ers. DANNY GREEN. B+

28 mins | 17 pts | 0 reb | 0 ast | 0 stl | 0 blk | 0 TO | 5-10 FG | 5-9 3PT| 2-2 FT | 3 PF | –5 |

Danny Green performed well in his offensive role this game, knocking down five threes and contributing 17 points. His defense wasn’t great, but the Clippers are a tough matchup for any perimeter defender. The Sixers should be happy with what Green gave them tonight.

The Sixers continue their western road trip by playing the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday. Denver is fifth in the Western Conference and has won seven out of ten, so this will be another tough game. With the Nets just a game behind the Sixers, Doc Rivers will need to rally the troops for a strong game against MVP candidate Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets to continue their push for the number one seed.

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