By Connor Thomas
The Sixers’ bench mob received extended work last night in the team’s first game back since the All-Star break, as Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons both sat out due to NBA COVID protocol. In previous years, and even earlier this season, a bench game had been a recipe for disaster for the Sixers. Whether it was the freshness from the 8 day break or motivation to rewrite that narrative, last night was not an issue for Doc Rivers’ reserves in the least. Philly jumped out early on the Chicago Bulls, thanks to what everyone definitely saw coming: a perfect 4 for 4 from the field 1st quarter from Tony Bradley, who had a game high 8 points at the end of the quarter. Matisse Thybulle, who took the role of the other replacement starter, also made a large impact on the opposite end of the floor, holding Chicago All-Star Zach Lavine to a mere 2 points in the opening frame. These 2 efforts largely contributed to the 7 point lead the Sixers held heading into the 2nd quarter, and would continue to hold for the remainder of the game. The 2nd quarter in a vacuum was more like what many people had assumed the contest would be like, as Tobias Harris finally heated up and the Bulls began to expose the Sixers reserves a little bit more. Harris followed up a dreadful 0 for 5 1st quarter with a 10 point 2nd, that helped stave off a Chicago push led by Coby White and Lauri Markkanen. The Bulls were able to pace the Sixers evenly, with both teams putting up 34 points heading into the half, but Philly also still held their 7 point advantage from the 1st quarter. Missing your 2 best players and holding that type of lead at the half is certainly welcome, but the combination of Harris and Thybulle were not satisfied.
Harris stayed hot, putting up 11 more points in the 3rd quarter, but it was Thybulle’s 11 points in the quarter – more points than any full games this year – that really set the tone for the Sixers 2nd half. Thybulle was a perfect 4 for 4 from the floor in the quarter, and 3 for 3 from deep in what was by far and away his best offensive showing of the season. The Bulls stayed somewhat afloat thanks to a 10 point quarter from former Sixer Thaddeus Young, but Chicago found themselves down 12 heading into the 4th. If Doc Rivers could have emptied his bench he would have, but some of the Sixers back of the rotation guys had already seen significant minutes in Embiid and Simmons’ absence. That being said, Seth Curry, Tobias Harris, and the incredibly efficient Tony Bradley all earned a quarter off as the Sixers reserves continued to run the Bulls off the floor. While the 4th quarter was not important to the outcome of the game, there were a couple eyebrow-raising performances to take note of. Dwight Howard turned back the clock, if only for a quarter, throwing down some vicious alley oops and dunks. Furkan Korkmaz played a very solid quarter on both ends of the floor as well.
By the time the final horn sounded, the Sixers found themselves with a dominating 22 point win. Nearly every player played an important role in the win, with 7 players being in double figures (and Danny Green having 9). The Sixers scored 30 points + in each of the 4 quarters, and put up an impressive 127 points in the game without 2 of their top 3 scorers. All in all, it was a strong start to the second half for a team that has championship aspirations to fulfill. The Sixers will be back in action, with Joel Embiid active, tonight in Washington DC as they take on the Wizards.