As the fourth nor’easter in the last month was hammering Philadelphia, the 76ers were inside the Wells Fargo Center exacting a fiery revenge on the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Sixers earned an easy wire-to-wire, 119-105 win Wednesday night, improving to 40-30 on the season, two months after the Grizzlies’ comeback victory in Memphis on Jan. 22. The Sixers moved up to fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings with 12 games to go.
The Sixers’ starters laid the groundwork for a perfect first night of a back-to-back, combining for 72 points and creating enough of a lead that they rested for part of the third and the entirety of the fourth quarter.
For Ben Simmons, who finished with 13 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds, it was nice to have the extra rest, but it felt a little weird to sit for half the game.
“Absolutely [it was good], but at the same time, I want to be on the floor,” he said. “Our guys did a great job of getting that lead and then the guys who came in did a good job of holding it.”
Methodically, the Sixers grew their lead through the first two quarters with contributions from every player who stepped on the court, while holding Memphis to just 16 field goals in the first half.
JJ Redick, who missed the last meeting against the Grizzlies, started putting his mark on the game early with seven of his 15 points in the first quarter. He punctuated the Sixers’ first-half effort with a three at the second-quarter buzzer that gave his team a 58-44 advantage.
Coming out of intermission, the Sixers wasted no time expanding their lead. Redick and Joel Embiid (14 points, seven rebounds) were in sync, playing off each other, Robert Covington was hitting from everywhere on the floor, Marco Belinelli was knocking down threes, and the Grizzlies didn’t seem to have an answer for Simmons or Dario Saric (15 points).
“The third period, our starters came out and were fantastic,” coach Brett Brown said. “To set that stage with our ability to rest them because they built such a large lead is fantastic.”
By midway through the third quarter, all five Sixers starters were in double figures.
With 5 minutes, 11 seconds left in the third, Covington picked off a pass from Briante Weber and slammed down a dunk on the other end to give the Sixers a 30-point lead. He finished the night with 15 points.
“We have so many different guys that can do so much in open court,” Covington said. “That’s our best offense, and not a lot of teams can keep up with us. That being said, our defense leads to offense a lot.”
The Grizzlies, like the Sixers, were on the first night of a back-to-back and decided to rest Tyreke Evans, who punished the Sixers with 18 points in their last meeting. Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies’ biggest threat, had racked up three fouls before the second quarter expired and before Memphis could come up with a plan of attack, the game was too far gone.
Wayne Selden paced the Grizzlies, who have the second-worst record in the NBA (19-52), with 18 points off the bench.
The Sixers were given the luxury of not only resting their starters, but reaching deep enough into the bench to give two-way contract players James Young and Demetrius Jackson some late-game runs.
“We’re moving up,” Embiid said after the game. “Obviously our goal is home-court advantage, and we’re on the right track.”
Embiid, who is closely monitoring the standings, noted that the Sixers tied Washington for fifth place in the Eastern Conference with the victory over Memphis. The Wizards played Wednesday night against the Spurs in a game that started just as the Sixers’ game ended.
The Sixers finish off their back-to-back in Orlando on Thursday night.