Dominant performances from Joel Embiid (35 points) and James Harden (29 points and 13 assists) were the difference in the Sixers‘ comeback win over the Knicks on Christmas Day and served as a reminder that the team’s star power can make up for some shortcomings, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.
Before Embiid and Harden really got rolling and helped the Sixers pull away, De’Anthony Melton played a key role in keeping the club in the game, according to Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer, who notes that the guard began the afternoon by making his first five 3-point attempts.
The performance bumped Melton’s season-long 3-point percentage to an impressive 39.2% and contributed to ongoing speculation about whether he might keep his spot in the starting lineup even when Tyrese Maxey returns from his foot injury.
According to Mizell, it’s hard to imagine Maxey not eventually regaining his starting job, but if he has a minutes limit when he returns, the team could bring him along slowly by initially having him come off the bench. Melton also could find himself playing crunch-time minutes in certain situations where a defensive specialist is required, Mizell notes, since neither Harden nor Maxey is a lock-down defender.
Here’s more on the 76ers:
- The Sixers’ recent hot streak seems to be renewing enthusiasm about the upside of this year’s squad. Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote after Friday’s win over the Clippers that the 76ers are starting to live up to their preseason billing as a title contender, while Rich Hofmann of The Athletic said after Sunday’s victory over New York that the club is finally showing off its offensive firepower. Philadelphia had the NBA’s 17th-best offensive rating (111.2) through its first 24 games, but has posted the league’s third-best mark (118.1) during its current eight-game winning streak.
- Sixers forward P.J. Tucker revealed on Friday that he has been battling a pinched nerve, which he referred to as a “dead hand,” for the last few weeks, tweets Mizell. Tucker has been playing through the injury, but intends to keep working on it with the team’s trainers and physical therapists, Mizell adds.
- In the wake of the Sixers signing Louis King to a two-way contract to replace Saben Lee, Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com considers what King could bring to the team, suggesting that the former five-star recruit might be a “more intriguing lottery ticket” than Lee was.