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Man, there is never a dull moment being a fan of the Philadelphia 76ers. They always find a way to make things harder on themselves. That was the case in their 121-120 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. They jumped out to an early 16 point advantage in the first quarter largely in part to their defense. The Sixers’ team defense has been mostly shoddy all year, so it was good to see them committing on both ends early on. Joel Embiid had a lot to do with that. He made Anthony Davis’ job very difficult early and often. Davis finished with a season-low 12 points on 4/13 shooting and committed a team-high six turnovers. This is now back to back match ups where Embiid has just flat out dominated Davis.

Embiid had 15 points and 7 rebounds in the first quarter alone. He finished with a team-high 31 points and 19 rebounds. It was his 12th 30 point, 10 rebound game already this season and his 18th double double. The Sixers have played 20 games. He has been truly remarkable.

The Sixers were in control all night and even held a 16 point 4th quarter lead. It felt like one of those nights where the Sixers would just cruise to a victory just like their home match up against New Orleans last season. The Pelicans would continue to chip away, but a Wilson Chandler three pointer with 2:27 left that gave the Sixers a nine point lead would be the dagger. Or so we thought. The Pels would score eight straight to make it a one point game. After a big bucket by Redick, the Sixers led by three. All you have to do is not foul a three point shooter, so that’s exactly what would happen! Embiid fouled Davis attempting a desperation three. He would make the first two free throws, but miss the third and the Sixers got bailed out to improve to 10-0 at home. They really need to clean things up late in games.

On Friday night, the Sixers would take on the 2-14 Cleveland Cavaliers. So, undefeated at home facing a terrible team? Easy win, right? That’s what the Sixers thought. Boy, were they wrong. The Sixers came flat. And after the game Jimmy Butler said “…we really came out with zero energy. Not even low energy, zero.”

Give the Cavs credit. They hit a ton of contested shots late in the game to seal the 121-112 victory. That’s what will happen when you give young teams confidence and let them get into a rhythm early. This will definitely be a game the Sixers learn from.

Now onto the game of the week. A Sunday night showdown in Brooklyn. What a game this one turned out to be. It looked eerily similar to the Cavaliers game just two night’s prior. The Sixers struggling with an inferior opponent once again, trailing by double digits most of the night. That was until Brett Brown finally decided to make Jimmy Butler the focal point of the offense. Butler dropped 25 of his team-high 34 points in the second half alone. He also did this.. again.

I understand that’s it’s not easy to integrate an All-Star into your lineup midseason, but at least put him in some more pick-and-roll or iso situations. He was brought here to give the Sixers something they did not have. A guy on the wing who creates for himself. Maybe, just maybe, they finally realized how much of a difference he makes when properly utilized.

 

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⏪ NYLKOORB NI RENNIW EMAG ⏪

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Joel Embiid’s huge night gets lost in all of this. One the possession before Butler’s game winner, the Sixers got the ball down to Embiid. The Nets were in the penalty, so the smart thing would be to get the ball to the guy who has the most makes and attempts from the charity stripe this season. He got the bucket and the contact. Embiid finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds. 22 games played. 20 double doubles. 13 30 point, 10 rebound games. Incredible. What a treasure it is to have two guys who can give you 30 points on any given night.

 

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One quick thing about Ben Simmons. In the last five games, he’s averaging 19.8 points, 7.8 assists and 8.8 rebounds. He’s looked aggressive. That’s something that I think could finally be here to stay. With defenses worrying about an All-Star scorer on the wing, that only opens up passing lanes and scoring opportunities for Simmons.