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April 07, 2023

Quick Six: Takeaways from Sixers' stunning shorthanded win vs. Atlanta

Despite sitting their entire starting lineup and their most-played reserve, the Sixers somehow managed to hang around against a Hawks team with something to play for, outlasting them in crunch time for a 136-131 overtime victory.

In lieu of our usual observations, let's hit a few highlights/lowlights from the game as we shift our attention toward the playoffs...

 Jaden Springer played two high-intensity games (including one a night prior) this week leading into the Hawks battle. You could tell he was fighting through fatigue at times while grabbing onto his shorts, which should be expected for a player who hasn't played meaningful NBA minutes. For a guy who was fighting fatigue all night, this was an impressive outing.

Those who believe in him see the defensive potential first and foremost, and there were flashes of that against Atlanta. Springer showed quick hands, good physicality, and improved awareness away from the ball. There's a chance he is the first Sixers player to successfully get over a screen on back-to-back possessions all season. He did reach against Trae Young a couple of times early in the second half, which is a habit he'll break in due time. 

I think you often see a guy stuck between worlds on offense at times. His handle is still pretty rudimentary, which allowed league-worst defender Trae Young to pick his pocket on a drive. A few times early in the game, it looked evident that NBA speed was overwhelming for him, which is understandable. 

But those bumps in the road were few and far between in this game, and he clearly settled in as time wore on. His shooting, which has been one of the long-term question marks for Springer, helped carry the rest of his game on offense. Springer had a big pull-up three late in the fourth quarter to keep Philadelphia close, and a 2/3 night from deep is more than getting it done for him on an average night. He also hit a tying bucket with under a minute left in this game, driving right through Trae Young with running back power before finishing at the hoop:

Moments later, with Philadelphia on the verge of defeat, Springer flashed toward the hoop for a putback dunk to tie it up. His time in Delaware looks to have been well spent. Don't suspect we see him in the playoffs, but I'm more intrigued for next year after this effort.

• Ben Simmons' greatest basketball crime, and he committed many in Philadelphia, was making people take the Hawks serious as a team and an organization. They had all of their regular rotation players available on Friday night against a team of backups on the second half of a back-to-back, and they somehow found themselves in a dogfight with Philly that they would end up losing in overtime.

As we've seen time and time again this season, Doc Rivers has done a great job of keeping his team prepared when they're down a star (or two), which is part of how they were able to march to 50+ wins fairly easily after starting in a hole and dealing with multiple injuries. That being said, the Hawks should be ashamed of themselves coming out of this one. 

Jalen McDaniels finding his shooting boots (and better health!) as the season comes to a close is probably the only thing that really matters from this game and these final two games. He is a potentially huge variable for the Sixers in the playoffs — the good version of McDaniels could tilt a playoff game, the bad one will end up stapled to the bench in service of playing Georges Niang.

If McDaniels can hit his outside shots, he's a terrific connector of Sixers lineups no matter who is on the floor. The Sixers relied on him to do a heck of a lot in this game, using him as a lob threat off-ball, a ballhandler in dribble handoffs, a shooter off of movement, and so on. McDaniels was up to the task, carrying the scoring load for Philly most of the night.

He also seems like a particularly impactful guy on closeouts, even if I have nothing to back that up statistically. Watching him flying toward you with those long arms must be off-putting.

I don't think Doc Rivers is inclined to treat him this way, but Danuel House Jr. should be in contention to play any minute Georges Niang gets in the playoffs. It was a great game for both guys on Friday night, which is exactly where you want to be if you're the Sixers, but the focus should be on House coming on strong down the stretch and perhaps playing his way into their playoff plans.

You often run into this very choice in the playoffs — would you rather play the high-upside shooter with poor defensive traits or the lower-ceiling shooter who can credibly defend multiple positions? House falls in the latter category, but he has shown a little more juice creating than we saw from him during his rough stretch to open the year. There were some nice moves to the hoop in the halfcourt and transition, with House managing to put himself on the line for eight free throws against Atlanta.

With McDaniels (and Tucker, and Harris...) big enough to slide up to the four, putting House in with the reserves is an easy tweak to the rotation if Niang struggles. We'll see if Rivers makes it. He didn't need to against Atlanta, with Niang shooting the damn lights out late in the game.

 Paul Reed committed two fouls on two plays that were within Atlanta's painted area, the Hawks having already secured the rebounds he was after. I love the competitiveness and desire to see through a play, but those are just stupid fouls. 

If Rivers goes away from Reed in the playoffs, these types of plays will be why. They've been far less frequent lately, but they happened multiple times on Friday night.

The saving grace for Reed is that his peers are, uh, not the best. Beggars can't be choosers on the buyout market, I guess, but can't say I can see a scenario that will require Dewayne Dedmon to play in the playoffs. He had some good offensive moments early in this game, including a beautiful feed to a cutting McDaniels, but he just can't move on defense unless you drive right into/at him. No bueno.

(Surprisingly, pretty good game for Montrezl Harrell in this one! Great activity on the offensive glass.)

I think Alaa Abdelnaby said the phrase, "There aren't a lot of direct flights from McAllen Airport" about seven times during the broadcast. I didn't count, but there was a moment early in the second half when I thought there was a glitch in the matrix because I was experiencing deja vu. 

Follow Kyle on Twitter: @KyleNeubeck

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