Sixers Blow Big Lead in Loss to Warriors

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Golden State 106, Philadelphia 104 – Box Score

With former GM Sam Hinkie in Oracle Arena Tuesday night to watch his former charges take on the 2-time Western Conference Champions, you had a feeling it wasn’t going to be the run-of-the-mill game for the Sixers.

It certainly was a memorable performance from the Sixers, even in, in classic Hinkie-era fashion, the team collapsed in crunch time to come away with the short end of the stick on the scoreboard.

Since the Kevin Durant injury, Golden State has not been playing its best ball, even losing three straight coming into last night. The Sixers were more than happy to take advantage for the bulk of the game, led by Dario Saric, whose Rookie of the Year resume gets stronger by the day. Saric finished with a fat stat line of 25 points on 11-20 shooting, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. Across 8 games in the month of March, Saric is now shooting 47.3% from the floor for averages of 20.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists.

Let’s forget the sublime passing ability, which we all had an inkling was part of the Saric skillset. But raise your hand if you watched the Homie at the beginning of the season and thought by March, he would repeatedly be the team’s option to can a tough jumper with the shot clock winding down. Now keep your hand raised, because my next question is who is lying. The rookie from Croatia’s game has grown by leaps and bounds these last couple months; it’s really been a fun storyline amidst a dismal end of the season for Philadelphia.

The Sixers also received great games from both of their remaining centers. Jahlil Okafor had 22 points on 8-15 shooting and 4 blocks in 23 minutes of action. It was the second straight 20-point game for Mr. Roll Out of Bed and Get 20 & 10, the 1st time he’s reached the mark in consecutive games this season. He also avoided the type of defensive lowlights that get you on Deadspin, at least generally giving effort on that side of the floor.

Okafor’s tag team partner for the evening, Richaun Holmes, showed up with a big outing as well, adding 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 21 minutes. Holmes plays with such an abundance of energy; he’s the perfect bench guy to come in and kick up the intensity after the first units have gotten worn down. I don’t think Klay Thompson expected anyone to come in out of nowhere and block this shot.

So generally playing very well, the Sixers led by 16 with a couple minutes left in the third quarter. Unfortunately, that’s when the Warriors remembered they won 73 games last year, and about 6 minutes of game time later, a 19-2 Golden State run had the Warriors back in front. On his 29th birthday, people will focus on Steph Curry finally knocking down some shots. He finished with a game-high 29 points, but shot just 8-23 from the field and had as many turnovers as assists with 5 of each.

Really though, Draymond Green was the reason the Warriors were able to come back. The former Defensive Player of the Year winner was in top form on that end, suddenly shutting everything down on that end as the Sixers were held to just 14 points in the 4th quarter. Green missed a vaunted 5×5 game by a single steal, ending the night with 20 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals, and 6 blocks.

In the final minute of the game, it was a flashback to the late game Sixers of old when they stopped looking like they are a professional basketball team in the clutch. Three consecutive possessions in a one-possession game featured TJ McConnell blocked on a drive by Green, Richaun Holmes stepping out of bounds, and McConnell having a pass stolen by Matt Barnes. It was a tough note to go out on for a Sixers team that played well enough as a whole to earn a tough road victory.

The good news is that the Knicks won last night, so the Kings are back to having the 6th-worst record in the league (the Sixers are 5th). Going toe-to-toe with a championship-caliber team like the Warriors is even more impressive with Philadelphia’s top two prospects in street clothes, and at least one top pick is soon to be on the way. 15 games left.

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