By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor
The Sixers were back in action at home on Wednesday night, facing off against the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics. Boston would be without their All-Star Jayson Tatum, but would still put up a good fight.
In the end, the Sixers would be able to hold on to the lead late and walk away with a 117-109 victory. With the win, the Sixers now hold the top spot in the conference by half a game.
Here are some grades from the first of two matchups by these teams.
Tobias Harris: A
Since being reunited with Doc Rivers, Tobias Harris has begun to look like his old self. His play on the floor this season has been a night and day difference to the player we saw last season.
As much credit goes to Joel Embiid for carrying this team this season, Harris deserves just as much credit for being a reliable second option on a nightly basis. He would end this game as the team's second-leading scorer with 22 points and would shoot over 50% from the floor.
Harris did a good job establishing himself early in this game and was crucial for the team down the stretch in the fourth quarter. Nine of his 22 points would come in the final quarter, including a huge bucket in the post to help keep the Celtics at bay in the closing moments.
Although there is no All-Star game this year, Harris has been playing at that type of level. What he has brought offensively has played a huge part in the success the Sixers have seen this season.
Shake Milton: B+
Shake Milton is another player who has upped his game since the arrival of Doc Rivers. He continues to be an offensive spark plug off the bench, solidifying the team's second unit in the process.
The potential sixth man of the year candidate would be the Sixers' third-leading scorer in this contest, racking up 16 points in about 29 minutes of action. Milton would shoot the ball effectively in two major areas, knocking down a pair of threes and converting all six of his free throw attempts.
Milton's play off the bench is something the Sixers haven't seen since Lou Williams. His ability to come in games and rack up points fast makes the Sixers look like a deep and dangerous team.
Ben Simmons: B+
Ben Simmons struggled in portions of this game but was big for the team down the stretch as they secured the win. His shooting struggles would continue, but that didn't stop him from finishing just shy of another triple-double.
He would finish the game with a stat line of 11 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, and two steals. Although 11 points aren't impressive, he would score seven of those points at the free-throw line. His ability to draw fouls and get to the line at a career-high rate has been a big positive for a slow start to the season for Simmons.
If Simmons can keep getting to the line at this type of rate, he is bound to break out of his slump soon. He is still rebounding and passing the ball at an elite rate, once his shots start to fall he will start to look like Simmons we are accustomed to seeing.
Joel Embiid: A++
Yet again, Joel Embiid continues to dominate any matchup put in front of him. Whether it was fresh legs or wanting revenge from last year's playoffs, Joel Embiid was a man determined on Wednesday night.
The early MVP favorite would put on another dominant performance, ending with 42 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block. Embiid would get it going early and never look back.
What stands out most about this performance was how effective Embiid was shooting the ball. He shot over 60% from the floor, hitting 12 of his 19 field goals, and would convert 17 free throws on an astonishing 21 attempts.
Boston's lack of size was something that stood out heading into this matchup, and Embiid would make it very apparent. Boston had no answer for him in the postseason last year, and Embiid has found a new gear since then.
This level of dominance is something we haven't seen from the center position in a long time, and shouldn't go unnoticed. If Embiid can keep up this level of play, he for sure will continue to rise up the MVP ladder.