Player grades: CJ McCollum, Pelicans hand Sixers a 2nd straight loss

After a loss in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, the Philadelphia 76ers paid a visit to the bayou on Friday looking to bounce back against the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans are no slouch as they entered the night tied for the No. 1 seed in the West and they showed why they’ve been having success in this one.

The Sixers opened up a 10-point lead in the first quarter thanks to Joel Embiid, then the Pelicans stormed back and led by as many as 17 and led for the majority of the second half on their way to a 127-116 win. CJ McCollum went bonkers and had 42 points on a career-high 11 3-pointers made while Zion Williamson had 36 points. The 11 triples by McCollum are also a New Orleans franchise record.

Joel Embiid was once again dominant as he led the Sixers with 37 points, eight rebounds, and five assists, James Harden had 20 points and 10 assists, De’Anthony Melton had 11 points, and Tobias Harris had 14 and five rebounds. Georges Niang added eight and Tyrese Maxey made his return from an 18-game injury absence to have nine points.

Here are the player grades following the loss:

James Harden: A

The Beard continues to evolve into being that pass-first guard out on the floor. He had five assists in the opening quarter as he and Embiid continue to grow as a pairing. They are an almost unstoppable duo in that respect. Then, Harden got going with his own scoring in the second quarter when the Pelicans got up big. His 3-point shooting and then his aggressiveness on the offensive end were much needed.

De'Anthony Melton: B-

He didn’t have his usual defensive impact in the first half as McCollum went bonkers from deep for New Orleans, but Melton did provide some needed offense. He knocked down a triple and he had two strong drives at the rim over taller defenders in the first half to give the Sixers a boost. He then made a timely triple in the second half when Philadelphia needed it.

Tobias Harris: C-

This has been a weird road trip for Harris thus far. He wasn’t all that aggressive in New York or Washington and in this one, he passed up a few looks as well. He did drill a catch-and-shoot triple to end the first half though to give Philadelphia a boost when it looked like the Pelicans were going to pull away. He wasn’t very aggressive though after halftime as he didn’t have many clean looks.

PJ Tucker: C

Williamson is a tough matchup for anybody. The size, the physicality, and the aggressiveness he plays with are tough for just about anybody in this league let alone a 37-year-old Tucker. However, the veteran forward made life tough for him. The New Orleans star had another huge night, but when he was defended by Tucker, he had to work for everything. Tucker did commit a few tough fouls in the fourth quarter and he then picked up a tech for arguing as Philadelphia lost their cool a bit.

Joel Embiid: A+

Poor Jonas Valanciunas. On top of that, poor Willy Hernangomez. Embiid absolutely victimized both big men in the first quarter as the two New Orleans big men were just helpless in trying to defend him. He had 15 points in the opening quarter to set the tone for the Sixers. Every time the Pelicans looked as if they would pull away, the Sixers would just dump the ball to the big fella and he’d calmly get a bucket as he scored another 15 in the third quarter.

Tyrese Maxey: B+

In his first run since Nov. 18, Maxey looked a bit off, which is to be expected. His timing and rhythm looked a little off in his initial run out on the floor. He got stripped by Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado who went the other way for an easy bucket. Maxey did make a tough step-back jumper in the second quarter for his first hoop. He was better in the second half as he was able to get his legs under him and knock down some big shots on the offensive end of the floor.

Georges Niang: C+

The good for Niang during his run was that he made two triples. The bad was that he had a tough time with Williamson. Really, the whole bench unit had a tough time on defense, but Niang especially had a tough time having to defend down low.

Montrezl Harrell: C-

The veteran had a tough time defending off the bench. Again, the whole bench unit did, but when Harrell was switched on to Williamson, it was a mismatch in favor of the Pelicans. He did have a very good night on the offensive end though.

Shake Milton: C+

This was a tough defensive night for Milton. The Pelicans hunted him on switches. McCollum was getting whatever he wanted from the perimeter. However, the veteran out of SMU provided some much-needed offense in order to help the Sixers stay in the game. His offensive production was important.

Matisse Thybulle: B-

The initial run for Thybulle was brief as he played just four minutes and he had a foul and a rebound. He then played three minutes in the second half and he had a block with two rebounds. The playing time continues to be erratic for him which can cause an issue for any player trying to find consistency.

Story originally appeared on Sixers Wire