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November 01, 2018

Instant observations: Sixers overcome huge blown lead vs. Clippers lead to stay perfect at home

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The Sixers never can take an easy victory.

After leading the Clippers by as many as 22, the team squandered the lead and nearly allowed a big potential collapse overshadow some incredible individual performances in Thursday's 122-113 win over L.A. 

Somehow, thanks to a monster game from Joel Embiid and a spark from Markelle Fultz, the Sixers inched out a still convincing win to get above the .500 mark at home in South Philly. Here's what I saw in the victory:

The Good

• Embiid is just so good. A fast start saw him collect 12 points in the first 12 minutes, and then 24 in the first 24 (of which he played just 14). Offensively, when he's on, he's really unstoppable.

The big man loves playing against L.A. teams it seems. If you remember, he had two of his best showing of his career last season out west vs. the Clippers and the Lakers. This time, Embiid went for 41 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks, including this thunderous dunk late in the fourth to help the Sixers preserve a comfortable eight-point lead:

He also heard pretty loud "MVP" chants when at the line in the fourth — something that will probably continue all season long.

• Was this Fultz' coming out party? While he didn't explode for a mass of points or post another triple double (12 points, nine boards, five assists), he was the most important player on the floor for the Sixers at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth. He was all over the floor flashing quickness and court awareness, and drove to the basket almost half a dozen times — sometimes with 7-foot-3 Boban Marjanovic waiting with fearlessness. His spark helped the Sixers get back their mojo after clearly losing control of the game after the half.

• The Sixers really do, more or less, have two J.J. Redick's on their team and it's fun to watch. The team can run the same off ball screens they run for Redick for rookie Landry Shamet and often they get the same exact results. Without a doubt, the goal is to have Shamet take on that rule as soon as next season should they need to use Redick's salary to help them attempt to land a superstar in 2019-20.

This one should have been a four-point play by the way:

• After turning the ball over a career high 11 times against Toronto earlier this week, Ben Simmons showed it was an aberration, turning the ball over just twice while scoring 14 points (plus 11 rebounds).

• Midway through the second quarter the Sixers put together an impressive 26-4 run to help put Philly up 72-57 after the first half. Spoiler alert — they would give up a run just as big.

• This Mike Muscala three-pointer (and the free throw to follow) put the Sixers back on top after collapsing to start the second quarter. It was a much-needed momentum changer — and showed some of the value Philly got in their new stretch big.

• Through their first eight games, Philly forced the fourth fewest turnovers on defense this season, just 12, and it's just one numerical example of how the Philly defense has regressed this year. Against the Clippers they were able to force 18 turnovers.

• Philadelphia is also the second best assisting team in the NBA (27.3 per game heading into Thursday, only trailing Golden State). That continued, with Philly compiling 29 of them.

• The Sixers improve to a perfect 5-0 at home with Thursday's win. Which is good news, since Philly has 41 games at home every year. They have yet to in on the road yet this year.

The Bad

• As has been noted before, the Ben Simmons-Markelle Fultz dynamic when both are on the floor is a little off. Both are at their most effective with the ball and early Thursday, with Simmons handling things, Fultz vanished on offense. Interestingly, later in the game — in the fourth — the Sixers played some small ball with Simmons at the 4 and Saric at center. Things looked to run much more smoothly with Fultz handling point guard duties and Simmons playing off the ball.

• The Sixers saw their gigantic lead evaporate when the second half started, as the Clippers got within two points (thanks oddly enough to starting gargantuan Marjanovic to help out with guarding Embiid and clog things up in the paint.

Danilo Gallinari three pointer just inside four minutes put the Clippers on top for the first time since the first quarter, 81-80.

• The Sixers continue to give up big games to less than stellar players. Lou Williams, Tobias Harris and Gallinari all went for 20-plus points.

• Philly memorably blew a lot of big leads last year and it seems like their inability to blow out their opposition is still a work in progress. After scoring 72 points by halftime the Sixers scored just 18 points in the third quarter to allow L.A. back into the game. 

The Ugly

• Something is seriously wrong with Dario Saric. After emerging as one of the Sixers' players with the hustle, heart, defense and some scoring last year he has been unable to find a groove all year. Against the Clippers he missed both from long range and easy layups. He would finally get on the board after missing his first five field goals with a pair of free throws in the third quarter.

• This one was ugly for former Sixer Lou Williams. Watch Embiid's extension on this nasty block:

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