Instant Observations: 76ers’ Comeback Attempt Against Pelicans Not Enough to Overcome Brutal First Half Showing

Instant Observations: 76ers’ Comeback Attempt Against Pelicans Not Enough to Overcome Brutal First Half Showing Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr (9) collides with New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) in the first quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers (35-28) dropped their third consecutive game, falling to the New Orleans Pelicans (38-25) 103-95 on Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Sixers were down by as much as 35 points before charging back in the second half and making it a close game. In the end, they dug themselves too deep a hole to overcome.

Tobias Harris finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals. Paul Reed added 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks off the bench. Kelly Oubre Jr. finished with 20 points and seven rebounds.

The Sixers were without Joel Embiid (left knee meniscus procedure), Tyrese Maxey (concussion), De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine bone stress), Nic Batum (left foot soreness) and Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise).

New Orleans was led by Zion Williamson’s 23 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and three blocks. Brandon Ingram recorded 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Naji Marshall added 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting off the bench. Dyson Daniels (left knee meniscectomy) was the lone player out of the lineup for the Pelicans.

The Sixers’ next contest is a road matchup with the New York Knicks on Sunday evening. Here are some instant observations from the loss to the Pelicans:

– The Sixers’ first half performance against the Pelicans was not pretty to say the least. They scored just 34 points while shooting 29.5% from the field and 10% from beyond the arc. The Pelicans, comparatively, shot 56.1% from the field and 52.9% from 3-point range in the first half. New Orleans held a 29-point lead at halftime. It was the worst performance the Sixers have put together in a half in recent memory.

The Sixers are without a whole starting lineup worth of players, so disappointing is not the correct word to describe their play in the first half against the Pelicans. However, it was still an embarrassing performance. Cam Payne dribbled into a pull-up 3-pointer early in the shot clock that failed to even hit the rim. KJ Martin air balled a wide open 3-pointer. They were unable to execute even the most simplest of plays. They committed far too many turnovers and made some poor mental mistakes that can be easily avoided.

– For as bad as the Sixers were in the first half, they completely flipped the picture in the second half. They scored 27 points in the third quarter, nearly matching their output from the entire first half. The Pelicans, who could not miss in the first half, went ice cold from the field. The Sixers kept fighting and picking away at the deficit, eventually cutting it down to five points with 46 seconds remaining. Harris led the team’s comeback effort, scoring 15 of his points in the second half. He found a rhythm through finishing around the rim and making a couple mid-range jumpers. Reed (more on him below) continued to fly around the floor.

In the end, the 29-point halftime deficit proved too much to overcome. The Pelicans managed to scrape together just enough in the fourth quarter to counter the Sixers’ comeback efforts. The Sixers had no business making the game that close after the way they played in the first half. However, they showed some incredible fight and heart in the second half and were nearly able to complete a comeback for the ages.

– There were not many players who managed to show any signs of life for the Sixers. Reed was one of few players who made a positive impact, although it was wasted by the complete no show the rest of the team produced. In the midst of a first quarter in which the Sixers scored a meager 15 points, Reed tried all he could to spark the offense. He grabbed four offensive rebounds while making it his mission to attempt to control the glass. Reed also made a strong contribution as a scorer, connecting on multiple tough shots around the rim and even making a pair of 3-pointers.

Reed’s performance of late should cement him in as the starting center until Embiid returns to the floor. Mo Bamba provides very little, and starting him is as good as playing 4-on-5 basketball. Reed can be overextended while trying to play 20 or 25 minutes per game, but the Sixers have to live with the results.

Buddy Hield was great in his first few games in a Sixers uniform. However, his play has really fallen off over the past couple weeks. Over the prior six games heading into this contest, Hield averaged 11.5 points per game while shooting 34.8% from the field and 38.1% from beyond the arc. His recent struggles carried over into this game against the Pelicans. He scored just eight points on 2-of-10 shooting. Hield is typically one of the league’s best outside shooters. The Sixers need him to break out of the slump he has been in.

– The Sixers are going to be hard pressed to put up consistent offensive production while they are without both Embiid and Maxey. Harris is inconsistent and lacks the aggression necessary to lead the offense on a nightly basis. Oubre is a solid volume scorer with some limitations. He has improved his play over the last couple games, but relying on him to lead the offense is a recipe for failure. Kyle Lowry can efficiently run the offense and set up others. However, at 37 years old he no longer has the capability to take over games as a scorer. Trying to produce enough offensively to win games is going to be nearly impossible as long as they are forced to rely on lower-level rotation players to carry the offense.

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