Two nights ago the 76ers played Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals and lost once again to Boston. Or at least that’s what it felt like. “People don’t change”, said Gregory House, and it felt as such watching Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid put together a 2017-2018 redux of strengths, weaknesses and lack of jumpers.
But, Game 1 of 82 is in the rear view. Lest we forget that the 2013-2014 76ers started 3-0 before putting up a total 19 wins on the season.
The Chicago Bulls were a good rebound team to get the 76ers back into the swing of things. Playing without Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, the Bulls would be easy prey right? Well, not so fast. Different night, same formula. In order to beat the 76ers, you have to hit a bunch of contested jumpers. The Bulls put up 41 points in the first quarter. Legends say the ever-ornery Bobby Portis has never missed a shot against Philadelphia. Thankfully, since defense was optional, Philly was able to put up 38 of their own.
Thankfully, the second quarter cooled both teams off, defense became an acceptable practice and the 76ers were able to pull into a 7 point lead by halftime. Notably Brett Brown employed a line up of Fultz, Redick, Covington, Simmons and Embiid for a few minutes to some success (at least by eye test?).
The second half began with last season’s starting lineup and things went predictably. The team finally woke up and found the chemistry that led them to much success in the regular season a year ago. By the end of the 3rd, the 76ers lead ballooned to 26. Ben netted a “pathetic” triple-double*, his first of the season. JoJo was beasting and feasting. The crowd was oo-ing and ah-ing. The rout was on.
The fourth quarter brought us one of the biggest moments of the game. Enjoy.
Fultz pulls up from long distance and DRAINS IT.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) October 19, 2018
The cheers from the Philly faithful says it all. pic.twitter.com/OcXJIpHk9P
That. felt. euphoric. I think our friend Sean O’Connor put it best.
People were cheering as if their best friend just got the girl at the end of a romcom.— Sean O'Connor (@soconnor76) October 19, 2018
Without some of the actual back ups, Philly walking down a 26 point lead with 8+ minutes left was somewhat of an adventure. Embiid and Simmons had to come back into the game at varying points but Fultz mostly had the responsibility of running point to close it out. With the caveat that this was the Chicago Bulls, it was nice to end the game comfortably with positives from pretty much every player on the team.
Feels good to be home.
Odds & Ends
- Ben Simmons. Triple-Double. Ho-Hum. The impact he has on this game feels effortless at times and most teams are not going to be able to handle his size and athleticism. There’s a lot of buzz that Simmons may average a triple-double for the season. I believe it.
- You knew Joel Embiid was going to come back with a vengeance after a poor showing (by his standards) against Boston. How about 30 points, 12 boards, 4 blocks, rim-protection, laser-rocket-arm? It’s going to be a fun year.
- The first couple times Markelle Fultz touched the ball, Chicago’s Cameron Payne gave him 5+ feet of space. Not once did Fultz look to put up a shot. I’m sorry, but this isn’t going to work. I feel for Fultz and I don’t think Brett is necessarily putting him in the best position to succeed by forcing him into a starting role when he obviously doesn’t fit with the other core pieces. That said, when does have the ball in his hands, he HAS TO BE WILLING TO SHOOT.
- Of course, after bricking his first few mid-range shots, Fultz finally hit a 15-footer off a pick, the crowd roared and you could squint and see the guy the 76ers drafted a year ago. The fourth quarter 3 capped off an extended fourth quarter run where you saw the rook get to manage the team (to varying success). Everything comes back to confidence.
- Dario Saric started off much like he did against Boston. Heavy legs and a flat shot were on full display in the first half. Thankfully, the Homie woke up in the third quarter, finally hitting a few 3s and klumpy-flumping his way to some baskets.
- Robert Covington was everywhere. At this point, folks are pretty much entrenched on their opinions of him. But, he’s exactly the type of player you want to surround ball-dominant guys like Embiid and Simmons with. 4-11 beyond the arc, some better dribbling, and he made some layups!
- J.J. “The Backup” still feels weird to take in. As a guy that seems like a creature of habit, it does look like he’s still adjusting to his new role as well. Only 3 shots beyond the arc tonight but against lesser opponents, it’s not so bad to get the vet some rest.
- When’s the last time the 76ers drafted a productive non-lottery rotational guard? For all the hand-wringing about missing Marco Belinelli, the 76ers may have drafted the perfect, cheap replacement. Landry Shamet went 4-7 on the night beyond the arc and maybe GM Collaborative Effort knows a thing or two?
- I’m not sure Amir Johnson is going to be adequate enough as a back-up Center for the long haul. That said, I do enjoy how in two straight games he’s thrown down a hammer dunk where you look around and say, “Where did that come from?”
- Furkan Korkmaz and Jonah Bolden got minutes. Each bricked a 3. That’s it.
- TJ McConnell got less than 5 minutes of play tonight. I love TJ but that’s probably the right amount of minutes for him while they try to bring Fultz along.
- *For those wondering what a “pathetic” triple-double is... here’s a throwback to some old LB content. Shout out to Derek Bodner!
- More breakdown coming in the future from my fellow writers!
- The Orlando Magic and Bamba No. 5 come to visit on Saturday. More Wins Please?