Buzzer-Beating Tip-In Brings Sixers Overtime Victory
Ben Simmons was having an off night. Through the entirety of regulation play against the San Antonio Spurs, he had mustered just three points on an abysmal 1-5 from the floor and an even worse 1-5 from the free throw line. Despite this lackluster performance, it was Simmons who came through when it mattered with a play that was both smart and athletic, managing to time his jump and come away with a buzzer-beating tip-in off an Embiid missed shot. The ball left his hands just in time and the Sixers managed to defeat a short-handed, yet persistent, Spurs team 113-111.
While the Sixers will gladly take the winning result, the journey towards that destination was much tougher than anticipated. The Spurs were without four players from their starting lineup in this game, with forward Keldon Johnson being their only starter to take the floor at all (Guards Dejonte Murray and Derrick White were injured while Demar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl were granted a rest day).
Philadelphia took advantage of the Spurs missing firepower early as they jumped out to a ten point lead in the first quarter. However, they failed to extend the lead beyond that margin and the Spurs quietly hung around the rest of the contest before tying the score late. Much credit has to go to the coaching legend that is Greg Popivich but I also think the Sixers needed to be more tenacious in seizing the game and putting it away earlier.
Joel Embiid was his usual dominant self, putting up 34 points and 12 rebounds despite the constant defensive attention he was receiving from a swarm of Spurs players on each possession. More surprising were the contributions of Seth Curry, who has been more inconsistent than the Sixers would like as of late. He was on a shooting tear in this contest, hitting all six of his three point attempts and ultimately scoring 22 points with a ridiculous +15 plus/minus during his 35 minutes of action. Both Simmons (typical) and Harris (atypical) were in shooting slumps this game, combining for a woeful 11 points between them. On the bright side, they both found other ways to help the team with at least five assists and rebounds. Of course, Ben’s real contribution only came with fractions of a second left.
The Spurs got a huge game out of their lone regular starter Keldon Johnson. He had 19 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals while clearly acting as the Spurs go-to scorer down the stretch. He didn’t always get the best of Embiid at the rim, but his fearlessness while driving was admirable. Additionally, Gorgui Deng poured in 17 bench points for the Spurs and was their primary Embiid defender down the stretch.
As the Nets lost a tight one to the Bucks yesterday, this victory puts the Sixers back in first place in the Eastern Conference standings. That’s great news as they enter a stretch of games against easier opponents. Of the Sixers’ remaining eight games, only two of them (Miami and Indiana) are playoff-caliber teams.
The Sixers will play on the road against the Chicago Bulls tonight.