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Philadelphia 76ers

We finally got our first look at Jimmy Butler in a Philadelphia Sixers uniform last Wednesday night in Orlando. But it was Joel Embiid who stole the show early on. The big man tallied 11 points on 4/5 shooting including three trey balls less than five minutes into the game. He also assisted on Jimmy Butler’s first bucket as a Sixer. That seemed to be the theme of the night. Run the offense through Joel Embiid and figure the rest out later. Embiid had 10 assists in total en route to his first career triple double.

Embiid knocked down his fourth three of the night to give the Sixers a 16 point lead early in the fourth quarter. That lead quickly evaporated when the Orlando Magic went on a ridiculous 21-0 run. Despite big buckets down the stretch from Wilson Chandler, the Magic would prevail 111-106. Ben Simmons had a quiet night on the offensive end. He attempted just five field goals the entire game. That wasn’t a huge surprise, however. It’s not easy incorporating a star into your lineup. What was surprising was his ineffectiveness on the defensive end. It was a rather unforgettable game for Simmons. Sure, the Sixers coughed up another lead, but it was just night one of the Jimmy Butler era. We can’t nitpick too much.

The Sixers would be back at Wells Fargo Center to take on Donovan Mitchell and company. It was a raucous crowd for the home debut of Jimmy Butler. He would not disappoint. Butler scored a team-high 28 points on a super efficient 12-15 from the field helping the Sixers defeat the Utah Jazz 113-107.

The Sixers would open the game by hitting their first eight shots which propelled them to a 21-6 lead. The Jazz would answer in the second period and cut a lead as large as 16 down to two at halftime. Game on. The Sixers found themselves trailing 93-88 in the fourth. That was until the core three all stepped up in crunch time. It was really impressive considering the fact that its only their second game together.

Jimmy Butler was pivotal on both ends and he will only improve in this system come playoff time. He was a huge reason as to why Donovan Mitchell was just 13-35 on the night. He adds a different element to Brett Brown’s dribble handoffs. Whether it’s the ability to shoot right off the handoff like JJ Redick does or to pull the ball back down and shoot off his own dribble. There’s also been more pick and rolls ran since Butler’s arrival. He’s an entirely new element to the Sixers’ offense. Brett Brown has never had a perimeter player like this. It’s just pure joy to watch.

This was also the game in which Markelle Fultz debuted this new free throw routine:

More on him later.

Up next was the Charlotte Hornets. Again. It was also the Sixers’ fifth back to back already. The schedule markers were not kind to the Sixers who just traveled to China in early October. I suppose this will be better for the team long term since they’ve gotten half of their back to backs out of the way already.

Luckily, the Sixers won’t see Kemba Walker and the Hornets until March. That will be the fourth and final meeting between the two clubs. The Sixers could really use a break from Kemba Walker who has lit them up in every single meeting. But this one was different. Walker went for a career-high 60 points. SIXTY. But he still came out on the losing end thanks to, well, you know who. Jimmy G Buckets. The “G” stands for “gets”.

Butler was rather quiet in this meeting, though. It was Joel Embiid who had it going on. He scored 18 of his team-leading 33 points in the first quarter. Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz did a really good job of balancing the offense. They knew when to push pace and when to feed the big fella. This was a really impressive win for this squad. They have now taken nine straight from the Hornets.

After a day off the Sixers would be back home to take on the Phoenix Suns on Monday night. The Sixers were 11.5 point favorites, but you wouldn’t know that just from watching. The Sixers, for a second consecutive year, got off to a rather sluggish start at home against a bad Suns team and they capitalized on it. They led by as many as 15 in the first half.

This time around, the Sixers would turn a corner because of Joel Embiid. He finished with 33 points, 17 rebounds and three steals on the night. His 11th game already of at least 30 points and 10 rebounds. No one else has more than four. He helped cut the lead down to five before the half. The Sixers would grab the lead in the third and never look back. They are now 9-0 at home. Mike Muscala was fantastic off the bench adding a season-high 19 points and going hard on the offensive glass.

Markelle Fultz, who has previously looked comfortable off the bench, was less than impressive in the first half on Monday night. Brett Brown said the “gym was flat and needed some energy”. So, he ultimately decided to go with TJ McConnell as the back up point guard in the 2nd half. This is where things only begin to get weird.

Then, David Aldridge drops this bomb on us yesterday morning:

I, like the rest of the fan base, have so many questions. Why now? Why did this not happen during the offseason? Why does a professional athlete have to wait days to see a doctor? Is this a mental break and the shoulder excuse is just a way of buying time? Was he playing through injury in order to not be scrutinized any further? The last 14 months have been mind boggling, but we are only closer to the truth now. I root for Markelle. It would be good to see an athlete come back from a situation like this. But frankly, this team is in too good of a place to even worry about Fultz right now. It sounds harsh, but it’s reality