Joel Embiid returns
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Sixers biggest and brightest star. He looked like he was nearly back to normal against New York. Joel Embiid had racked up 19 of his game-high 29 points by halftime, a good sign after a few lackluster games. The problem against New York was not what Embiid did, but what he was not able to do. He can not win games by himself, and it often felt like he was the only weapon the Sixers had against the Knicks. What’s clearer than ever is that the team feeds off of Embiid’s energy. When he is aggressive and efficient the rest of the team prospers, which was evident when Embiid started to attack in the fourth quarter and the rest of the team stepped up.
Michael Beasley gets hot
Michael Beasley, who went into the game averaging 12.4 points, was on another level on Thursday. He finished the night with 24 points on an incredibl 11-of-16 shooting night. Dario Saric, Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, and Ersan Ilyasova all spent time trying to slow him down but had little answer and were often no where near Beasley.
The Sixers defense left much to be desired against the Knicks. Even when Enes Kanter racked up three fouls in the first quarter and the Sixers had an opportunity to put more pressure on the Knicks perimeter game, they failed. The Sixers closed out too hard, were blown by, caught in the air, and were nearly non-existent in transition. The poor defense left them in catch-up mode though most of the fourth quarter before they finally regained control in the final minutes.
Trouble from the free throw line
Embiid, who spent most of the season shooting about 78 percent from the free throw line, has been shooting around 63 percent for the last couple of weeks. He made 5-of-7 against the Knicks in his best game in a while, but it’s not just Embiid that is struggling from the line. The Sixers shot 21-of-34 on Thursday (61.8 percent). It’s an issue that the team has addressed as a whole and with Embiid in particular and needs to fixed quickly.
There’s something to be said about the way the Sixers were able to come back and close out the game strong. But this was a game against the Knicks. Many people, including the Sixers’ players and coaches, will say that every team is dangerous no matter their record, but there is no reason for the Sixers to be trailing most of the night when they’re playing the Knicks. The Sixers have the one of the easiest remaining schedules, but it won’t be easy and they’re position in the playoffs could be in danger if they don’t take care of bad teams early on in the game.