3 Observations From Sixers’ Comeback Victory Over Kings

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The Philadelphia 76ers escaped Saturday's matchup with the Sacramento Kings at the Wells Fargo Center with a 103-101 victory. The win extended the Sixers' winning streak to four games. They have won 15 of their last 19 games.

Joel Embiid finished the game with 36 points on 10-of-18 shooting, including knocking down 14 of his 18 attempts from the line, to go with 12 rebounds and six assists. It was his 17th straight game with 25 or more points.

Seth Curry looked a bit slow in his return from a four-game absence due to left ankle soreness, scoring eight points on 3-of-10 shooting along with five assists. Shake Milton continued to be sidelined with a back contusion he suffered on Jan. 3.

The Kings, without De'Aaron Fox, put up an unexpectedly good fight against the Sixers. They held the lead for most of the game before the Sixers stormed back in the fourth quarter to win the game. Tyrese Haliburton, perhaps auditioning for a trade, nearly willed the Kings into an upset victory, finishing with an incredible 38 points, seven assists and three steals.

Here are some observations from the team's victory on Saturday:

Embiid dominates in the second half

Embiid might have finished the game with 36 points, but it was not an even night for the MVP contender. The Sixers struggled to get much going in the first half, falling behind the Kings 61-50 at halftime. Embiid, at that point, had only 12 points on 1-of-5 shooting, but he was 10-of-12 from the line. Philadelphia committed 13 turnovers and the Kings were doing an excellent job sending quick double teams to Embiid every time he touched the ball.

He flipped a switch in the second half, playing angrily and with a ton of aggression against a Kings team which was frankly not equipped to guard him down in the paint.

Embiid dominated in the second half, scoring 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting en route to helping the Sixers recover from a terrible first half performance to get the win.

The big man's aggressiveness and energy level took a major bump after halftime, with tonight perhaps being another case of him pacing himself in the first half. Tonight was his 21st consecutive game played, the longest streak in his career. He would end up playing a major role in the victory, ratcheting up his energy level in the second half.

Tobias Harris continues his recent stretch of good play

The Sixers struggled mightily in the first quarter. Embiid missed all four of his field goal attempts in the quarter and the team was stagnant offensively. One of the lone positives in the quarter was the play of Tobias Harris. He kept the team afloat, scoring nine points on 4-of-5 shooting in the quarter.

Over the last month or so, Harris has really stepped up his performance. He is playing quicker, especially in terms of his decision-making out on the floor. He has regained his shooting touch and lately is not shying away from contact on his drives to the basket.

He finished the game tonight with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor along with eight rebounds and three assists. The way he has been playing over the last month is much closer to the level he was at last season, when he was snubbed from the All-Star game.

Rotation changes played key role in second half

Head coach Doc Rivers, throughout this season, has continued to struggle managing the team's rotations. The Sixers were not playing well as a team in the first half, but the poor rotation management exacerbated the team's issues. 

Rivers ran out the following all-bench unit to begin the second quarter: Furkan Korkmaz, Danny Green, Charlie Brown Jr., Georges Niang and Andre Drummond. This lineup lacked any true ball handler, although Korkmaz has shown an ability to run the offense in short spurts this season. The Kings outscored the Sixers 7-1 in the 2:30 this lineup was on the floor in the second quarter.

The lineups were managed and staggered much better in the second half, which played a big role – in addition to Embiid's incredible second-half performance – in creating momentum for the Sixers. One thing Rivers could and should be doing to easily improve the team's performance is to stagger the minutes of Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

Both players have the ability to anchor the bench lineup, with Maxey's scoring and Embiid's gravity and improved passing abilities being able to help improve the bench lineups. The Sixers cut the Kings' lead down to three points with the plays below with an Embiid-led bench lineup out on the floor.

There are a variety of different lineup combinations Rivers could go to for the Sixers. There is just no excuse for there to ever be an all-bench lineup out there. Rivers has to become more creative with the lineups. It is not a coincidence the team played better in the second half once the minutes were staggered more effectively. Maxey and Curry led a bench lineup that helped to completely take over the momentum of the game early in the fourth quarter with plays like the one below from Andre Drummond.

The Sixers were able to get a comeback victory against the Kings due a lot in part to the changes Rivers made with the rotations in the second half. Hopefully he will be able to continue those improvements in the team's next game, a home matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.