Let’s not hit the panic button, Philadelphia 76ers fans. Yes, it was a disappointing end to an almost perfect week. The Sixers dominated three inferior opponents at home and held them all under 100 points. They also collapsed in the fourth quarter to a better team on the road. Jimmy Butler was nearly perfect Wednesday night. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid were far from it. Butler is 29. Embiid and Simmons are 24 and 22. While young teams in the NBA are flashy and fun, this is still a grown man’s league. This is why they went out and got a guy like Jimmy Butler. He will undoubtedly help the Sixers’ young stars be better prepared for huge games like that.
The Toronto Raptors have an abundance of vets. They’ve also been playing at a high level for years now. Kawhi Leonard, who was fantastic the other night, has the best winning percentage of any guy in league history. The Sixers, on the other hand, have been playing at a high level for less than a year. They didn’t begin to play great basketball until February last season. Philadelphia fans struggle with patience, but they’ve been practicing throughout the entire “process”. This could be the best the Raptors will ever be. The Sixers are surely still on the rise. Their time will come.
Despite all of this, I still believe the Sixers have turned a corner. They’ve still won eight of their last 10 and have gotten markedly better on each end of the floor since acquiring Butler. The turnovers still seem to be a major issue on the road, but it’s only December and the Sixers have plenty of road games left to get that figured out before the playoffs. Also, playing a team like the Raptors only points out even more that you need another player off the bench. Trevor Ariza becomes trade eligible on December 15th. That should be Elton Brand’s number one target. The Houston Rockets, who are now 11-13, deeply miss his “3 & D” presence. If it’s not Ariza, it needs to be someone who has the ability to fill that role.
The Philadelphia 76ers held a free-agent workout this week with veteran guards Arron Afflalo, Brandon Rush and Sean Kilpatrick, along with G League Delaware’s Haywood Highsmith, per league sources on @TheAthleticNBA @WatchStadium.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 6, 2018
As I mentioned previously, Simmons and Embiid were not themselves. Embiid, who has a real shot at MVP this season, arguably had his worst game of the year. He finished with 10 points on 5/17 from the floor and four turnovers. Simmons really lacked the aggressiveness he had shown in the eight games prior in which he averaged 18.1 points. He finished with 10 assists, but turned it over a team-high seven times.
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It will be a different story when the Sixers finally get to take on the Raptors at home on December 22nd. But for now, they can only look at what’s in front of them. Philadelphia will begin a home and home with the Detroit Pistons tonight. Embiid will look to rebound against his favorite enemy, Andre Drummond.