3 observations after Thybulle keeps Curry in check, Sixers beat Warriors
The Sixers kept Stephen Curry away from Ray Allen’s career three-point record and beat a formidable Warriors team on Saturday night in Philadelphia.
Curry, who needed 10 three-pointers entering the game to break Allen’s record, scored 18 points on 6-for-20 shooting from the floor. He was 3 for 14 from three-point range in Golden State’s 102-93 loss at Wells Fargo Center. The Warriors are now 21-5, the Sixers 15-12.
Joel Embiid led the Sixers with 26 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Next up for the Sixers is a game Monday in Memphis against the Grizzlies. Here are observations on their victory over the Warriors:
Thybulle stellar on Curry
Matisse Thybulle started in Danny Green’s place as the Sixers decided to use their best perimeter defender on Curry from the opening tip.
The downside of that decision is it enabled the Warriors to put Curry on the Sixers’ worst offensive player and not have their superstar need to expend much defensive energy.
Still, the two-time MVP wasn’t at his best to begin the game, missing his first four field goals. Give Thybulle heaps of credit for playing dogged, chest-to-chest defense off the ball. No player can fully shut down Curry, but Thybulle is as good as it gets in terms of defensive talent. The 24-year-old blocked one three-point try early in the second period and another early in the third. Curry didn’t convert a long-distance jumper until 1:45 to go before halftime.
“Matisse was phenomenal,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said. “How many picks did he have to fight through tonight and keep going? Getting hit, getting (hip checked), butt-picked — and he just kept (fighting through).”
As a team, Golden State began the game 2 for 15 from three-point range and finished the night 12 for 48. The Sixers were happy to force Curry to relinquish the ball and have other Warriors take semi-contested shots.
Unfortunately for the Sixers, Thybulle could not avoid foul trouble. He was called for his third personal with 2:26 left in the first half and Curry pounced on the opening against Tyrese Maxey, scoring eight points before the intermission.
Curry’s constant motion and abundance of skills make him extremely difficult to guard, but Thybulle ensured he didn’t come close to a history-making evening with tremendous defense all game long.
Bench impressive on challenging night for Embiid
Embiid started 1 for 8 from the floor. He appeared bothered by the right side abdominal pain that he first felt Thursday against the Jazz, grabbing the net during one stoppage to stretch the affected area.
For a second straight game, Embiid was displeased with the officiating. After drawing a foul on Kevon Looney inside with 4:14 remaining in the second quarter, he picked up a technical foul, seemingly for swinging his arm in Looney’s direction. Harsh call.
Free throws were one of the few things working for Embiid early on against physical, high-level defense by Looney and Draymond Green. He went 11 for 11 at the foul line.
Andre Drummond was a substantial plus for the Sixers in his minutes against Nemanja Bjelica, bouncing back from a poor showing Thursday.
Drummond scored a dunk off of an offensive rebound, slammed in an alley-oop, and found Danny Green for a layup after a sneaky cut by the veteran wing along the baseline. He also did a decent job hedging ball screens involving Curry and appeared reasonably comfortable guarding away from the paint. The Sixers’ bench played very well overall and lifted the team to a lead as high as 10 points in the second quarter.
Both Drummond and the second unit were excellent in the second half, too. The Sixers erased a 13-point deficit thanks to their bench. A Thybulle corner three-pointer off of a Furkan Korkmaz drive-and-kick led Warriors head coach Steve Kerr to call a timeout with 9:44 left in the game.
Embiid and the Sixers caught a break when Draymond Green was called for his fourth foul with 8:27 left in the third period for an illegal screen on Thybulle. The three-time champion objected, believing Thybulle had baited the officials into the wrong call, but Kerr’s challenge was unsuccessful.
Green’s departure benefited Embiid but did not dramatically swing the game in the Sixers’ favor. Looney was solid and smart, and Golden State had success at times fronting Embiid.
The big man was persistent, though, and made an important jumper with 5:04 left to put the Sixers up 89-83. His and-one layup with 2:14 remaining thrilled an electric crowd and extended the Sixers’ advantage to 96-86. And, when the Warriors turned to a zone defense down the stretch, Embiid shredded it with a foul-line jumper.
“I told him at halftime, ‘We’re going to win this game because you’re going to become Joel and become powerful.’ And I thought in the fourth quarter, he asserted himself. We had to have that,” Rivers said.
Big plays from Maxey early and late
If there were any odds on the first player to reach two made three-pointers in the game, Maxey would’ve been low on the list.
He hit two triples within the first three minutes and 15 seconds, though. Good for the Sixers to see Maxey take jumpers when they’re open, and also for him to be knocking them down again after a five-game stretch in which he was just 29.2 percent from the floor.
Maxey played well in his initial stint outside of the three-point shooting, too. He made a smart “extra” pass to Danny Green for a corner three and drew two free throws by speeding ahead of the pack on a fast break.
“I’ve been pushing Tyrese a lot to be aggressive and to get to the paint, push the pace, look for his own shot,” Embiid said. “I think that’s what he’s got to keep doing, especially in transition. Even when the defense is set, he’s so fast that I think he has the chance to get to the rim whenever he wants to.”
Maxey’s early magic soon wore off. After the aforementioned flurry from Curry late in the second period, Maxey’s own jumper deserted him at the beginning of the third. He missed a couple of three-pointers the Sixers could’ve used to stymie (or at least delay) the Warriors’ customary third-quarter punch.
The shots weren’t bad ones for Maxey to attempt, but it’s obviously suboptimal that it felt as if the Sixers were somewhat reliant on his shooting when the starters were on the court. Compared to the average championship contender, the team lacks firepower.
The Sixers’ half-court offense was frequently not fluid and several possessions dwindled until the dying seconds of the shot clock. Seth Curry had a relatively quiet night with 10 points. Tobias Harris managed 16.
Stephen Curry, meanwhile, had a good deal of scoring help from Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins. Back-to-back threes from Poole (23 points) gave Golden State a 69-56 lead. Wiggins posted 20 points.
An acrobatic, “How the heck did he make that?” layup from Maxey was massive, extending the Sixers’ edge to 91-83 with 4:37 left. He came up with a clutch block about two minutes later, leaping high to swat a Poole fast-break layup.
The Sixers ultimately won this game because of their defense, timely shotmaking, and a 30-16 advantage in bench scoring. Without question, it’s their best victory yet this season.
“It’s one game, honestly,” Rivers said. “It’s good because it was a big stage and our guys performed on it. We got down and didn’t panic. … The second unit came in and got us the lead back. So there were a lot of good things in this game that moving forward, it’s a good teacher for us.”