Jerryd Bayless shows up
I was as shocked as anyone. Closing the third quarter and starting the final stanza, Bayless was on fire, defending, hitting shots inside and out. Where’s this guy been? He’s had so many streaky performances that it was surprising he was one of the Sixers leading the run to retake the lead. It wasn’t sustainable, and other guys had to step up in the end when Bayless was fouling, turning over the ball, and missing shots, but it was the tear that Bayless went on in the second half that helped save the day in Denver. He finished the night with 14 points, all of which came in the second half.
Bench comes up big
In addition to Bayless’ contribution, there were two other reserve players that put up double figures to help the Sixers win. Richaun Holmes, who rarely knows when he’s going to get playing time, put up 14 points in just under 19 minutes before fouling out of the game in the fourth. T.J. McConnell who is known to help in stressful situations added 10 points and eight assists off the bench. The Sixers, especially when they are missing Joel Embiid, need contributions from everyone, and the bench came up in a big way on Saturday.
In the paint
Denver was given an open lane without any resistance way too often. There was a stretch early in the second quarter that the Sixers might as well have laid down a red carpet for the Nuggets to waltz on in order to score at will at the basket. These kinds of defensive lapses are a partial product of missing 7-foot-2 center Joel Embiid, but even so, the lack of communication that leads to that kind of a defensive breakdown is troubling. The Sixers were able to lock down a little better defensively in the second half and secure the win, but a 48-minute defensive effort would be a great thing to see from the Sixers.
Holding it together
The first half was looking dismal at best. There was no energy, there was no defense, there was no anything from the Sixers. Then, out of character, the Sixers turned it around in the second half. With the bench helping out, JJ Redick finishing with 18 points, Robert Covington chipping in 15 points, Dario Saric leading the way with 20 points, and a defensive change in the second half, the Sixers proved that they can not only win without Embiid, but that they can win down stretch instead of letting leads dwindle away. My question at the buzzer is what changed? Who said what? Who distributed the Space Jam secret stuff? Finding out what sparked the change and using it moving forward is absolutely necessary.
Jamal Murray moves
When a guy moves so well without the ball it really shows when he plays against the Sixers. The Sixers are desperately missing the kind of guy that moves, slashes, and cuts to create an open shot or get the passing lane open the way that Murray does. Murray finished the night with a game-high 31 points to go with eight rebounds, three assists, one steal, and two blocks.