The Philadelphia 76ers were in desperate need of a clean bill of health. They returned home on Monday to host the Oklahoma City Thunder and they got it as Ben Simmons and Furkan Korkmaz returned to the lineup while Tobias Harris continued to get himself back into a rhythm.
Combined that with the excellence of Joel Embiid and the Sixers cruised past the Thunder 121-90 to put a halt to a 4-game losing skid. Embiid led Philadelphia with 21 points on 6-for-10 shooting with five rebounds and he made the right decisions all night long and the Thunder had no answers for the MVP candidate.
Simmons had 12 points and four assists in his return to the floor, Korkmaz had 10 in a start for Danny Green who was out due to left hip recovery, Harris had 11 points, Seth Curry added nine, Tyrese Maxey had 11, and Dwight Howard had nine and 11 rebounds off the bench. Paul Reed had 10 and nine rebounds in garbage time minutes.
Here are three observations from a much-needed win:
Return of Simmons
The Sixers definitely missed Simmons’ presence out on the floor. His first few possessions offensively featured him pushing the ball aggressively in transition and he was able to get into the paint and find shooters. Philadelphia relies on him so much on that end in terms of pushing the pace and continuing to find open shooters and he was able to do that from the outset in this one. He found Korkmaz and Curry for open looks in the early going to get the offense flowing a bit and that allowed the Sixers to get into a rhythm. On the defensive end, Simmons was also able to get his hands into the passing lanes and force some turnovers against a young and rebuilding Thunder team. He did look a little rusty in terms of staying in front of his man as OKC was able to get into the paint a lot early, but that was soon fixed. Philadelphia missed him on both ends of the floor and he made his presence felt from the jump in this one.
After picking up his 15th technical foul on Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks, a concern could have been Howard maybe playing with less passion in order to avoid picking up the 16th that would have caused an automatic one-game suspension. That was not the case as Howard came out and had a big start against the smaller Thunder and he had seven points and six rebounds in the first half off the bench. Howard needs to be able to come in and provide the dirty work down low while also being able to provide a spark and energy when the team needs it. It was good to see him not worry about picking up another tech and just going out and playing his style of basketball.
Getting the swagger back
The disclaimer is this was against the lowly Thunder who entered the night losers of 13 straight, but it was important to get something going to feel good about. Simmons’ return combined with the shooters making plays and the play of Embiid gives the team a little bit of a pick-me-up and stops a 4-game losing skid. They looked like they were having fun out there and they were able to get themselves back on track. Again, this was just the Thunder, but a win over anybody right now pushes them back forward. They were in need of a solid all-around performance no matter the opponent and give them a bit of momentum during a tough time right now. The win now pulls Philadelphia to within a game of the idle Brooklyn Nets for the top spot in the East standings.