The Philadelphia 76ers ran their winning streak to seven games on Friday night after a 109-107 victory. Break out the bubbly, right? Not so fast. The Sixers don’t like the product out on the court right now, especially not from the second unit.
Head coach Doc Rivers pulled his starters before the fourth quarter for the third straight night. They walked away with the dub on all three occasions, but they made it harder than it needed to be. The Sixers were up 70-54 at halftime over the New Orleans Pelicans and pushed their lead to as many 17 points in the second half. Unfortunately, the bench couldn’t contain the likes of Wenyen Gabriel and Jaxson Hayes. Rivers was forced to put his starters back in with around eight minutes to go.
“I thought the bench unit tonight, their big thing, their biggest problem was defensively,” Rivers said. “Like they came in and we actually had a nice lead and they came in and the Pelicans … they scored every single time down the floor. Defensively, I thought we were horrible, all of them. And that unit usually gives us some energy and they didn’t do that tonight.”
Joel Embiid continued his MVP campaign with 37 points and 13 rebounds in 33 minutes. Tobias Harris scored 17 points and Seth Curry finished with 12 points. The bench needs to re-dedicate themselves to consistent basketball. They were outscored 46-23 versus New Orleans.
“When we have the lead, we got to hold it,” Ben Simmons said. “Everyone needs to hold each other accountable on that end. We got to play better defense.”
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Danny Green Gets Brutally Honest
Danny Green was one of the Sixers starters who had to shed his warm-up pants and go back in the game on Friday. He wasn’t mad about getting those extra minutes, but the three-time champion knows that this team needs to break the habit of losing large leads. He thinks it might be a maturity issue.
“We need to do better about being mature and locked in and playing the full 48 [minutes] as if we’re playing the top team in the league no matter who’s out there,” Green said. “It’s more about us at this point.”
The Sixers (46-21) have been playing the league’s bottom-dwellers in recent days — Oklahoma City, Houston, San Antonio, Chicago — and struggling at times to close out games after staking double-digit advantages. No one is panicking in the locker room, although everyone knows it needs to change prior to the playoffs. Remember, the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference is still up for grabs.
“We’re getting wins but I don’t like the way we’ve been getting them. We got to be more locked in,” Green told reporters. “I’m not disrespecting any of these teams on any given night, they’re very talented teams regardless, but these teams are not 100-percent healthy. They don’t have everybody, and if we’re going to play like the No. 1 team in the East or a championship contender … we need to do a lot better.”
George Hill Still Adjusting to Sixers Role
George Hill was a lone bright spot off the bench for the Sixers versus New Orleans. He paced all the reserves with 11 points while contributing gritty defense down the stretch. Hill saw a decent amount of time on the floor with the starters after Seth Curry picked up three quick fouls.
Interestingly, Rivers subbed Hill in for Curry with 10.7 seconds left for defensive purposes on the final posession in a two-point game. And the Sixers came away with the steal following a botched Pelicans pass. Hill has seen action in 11 games for Philadelphia since coming over at the trade deadline from Oklahoma City.
“Still getting familiar with it, it’s only my fifth or sixth game,” Hill said. “I’m still getting in shape, things like that and trying to find my rhythm, find my role here. It’s been a little up and down but it’s something I’m used to my whole career, just coming in and finding a way and figuring it out.”
Hill is averaging 5.0 points, 1.9 assists, 2.5 rebounds in what he called an “up and down” transition. He’s seen action in 11 games for Philadelphia since coming over at the trade deadline from Oklahoma City.
“It’s taking a little longer than expected,” Hill said, “but just keep putting one foot in front of the other.”