The Sixers hold sole ownership of 3rd place (by 0.5 a game), and they are now just 1 win away from a 50 win season after downing the Cleveland Cavaliers last night in a wild game. (This franchise won only 10 games just 2 seasons ago.)
Watching the game gave me chest pains. It was one giant clusterfuck of excitement, anxiety, anger, and relief. Parts of the game were just not fun to watch. *Checks 3rd quarter box score for 5th time.* Remember the Sixers game against the Warriors from November? The Sixers lead by a healthy 22 point margin at half, before being outscored 47-15 in the 3rd quarter, and going on to lose 124-116.
Last night’s game felt a lot like that. LeBron James was robotic, scoring at will in the 2nd half and single handedly thrusting the Cavs back into the game. There were moments when it seemed all hope would be lost. But! The young Sixers, without their star center, held on for dear life. Maybe another 2 or 3 minutes of play, and this thing goes the other way. The game is only 48 minutes long though, and the Sixers were able to hold the Cavs off until the buzzer sounded. Regardless of how it ended, no one can take away how phenomenal the Sixers played in the first half, which was ultimately what powered them to victory.
- I don’t want to activate the Fire Brett Brown™ crowd, but there was an extremely frustrating lack of adjustments being made in game. I don’t want to put it totally on the coach, but at some point something needs to be done about Marco Belinelli being sought out by LeBron and Marco being hopeless in stopping him. On top of Belinelli being abused on defense, no one was providing help! I mean, they just left their boy out there to get cooked. It was perplexing! I’m pretty sure I even heard LeBron say, “Are… are you sure?” after the 6th time Marco was switched onto him.
- Some people were infuriated about Robert Covington fouling LeBron James in the closing seconds as LeBron was attempting a 3PT. Obviously, the plan was to foul LeBron on the floor. Can’t tie a three point game with two foul shots.
I haven’t watched the replay and really can’t recall whether or not it was a bad call. In real time, it looked like RoCo didn’t foul in time, but I wouldn’t swear an oath. In any event, when employing that strategy, there’s just no excuse for allowing the shot and fouling. You cannot send him to the line, he’s hit that shot before, you know it’s coming. Foul has to be on the floor. The Sixers got lucky.
- No one wanted the ball in the second half. Well, Marco Belinelli did. But the Sixers desperately needed a “here’s the ball, get a bucket” guy out there in the 3rd quarter. Joel Embiid is that guy, and it’s scary to think about the Sixers not being able to utilize him in the first round. Fingers crossed he’s back by Game 1, and I think he will be. (To build a little more on this and a bullet point above, Embiid would have been very helpful in slowing down LeBron. The Sixers could have survived a few of those LBJ/Belinelli matchups had Embiid been protecting the rim to make up for the mismatch.)
- Ben Simmons is on another level. 27-15-13. NBD.
- Dario Saric was clearly uncomfortable shooting the ball, going 1-9 from the floor. We know he had an infection on his elbow, causing him to miss 3 games. Hopefully the off night can be attributed to rust, and nothing long term comes of it.
- No matter how hot Marco Belinelli seems to be, every time he releases, my brain is like, “Noooooooooo!” He’s extremely fun and extremely frustrating at the same time. All in all, he’s been a really solid addition to this team thus far. His first half shooting was a big factor in the Sixers getting a win, even if he got barbecued defensively.
- The fans, at least from watching on television, were awesome last night. Lots of boos, especially when LBJ had the ball. It was loud and you could feel the energy sitting on your couch. Kudos, Philadelphia.
- TJ McConnell played only 5 minutes and I honestly don’t even remember those 5 minutes. This might say a thing or two about TJ’s role in the playoffs. Kid is in a funk, not sure what’s going on.
- Markelle Fultz looked awesome at times last night. His spin move is a thing of beauty. I’m not sure how long he can successful using that as his go-to move over and over again, but so far it’s been highly effective. He’s so much longer than he appears, and when he busts out that spin, he’s ends up like 8 feet from where he started.
- Outside of LBJ: Jeff Green scored 33 for the Cavs. Jeff. Green. Kevin Love scored 17. The next highest contributor was JR Smith with 8 points. It’s not impossible to imagine that with a healthy Embiid, the Sixers have a shot in a 7 game series against the Cavs. LeBron will kill them, but if they can limit everyone else, it’s going to take a superhuman effort by the King. He has it in him, though.
- How can anyone watch that game and think to themselves, “Yeah I don’t want LeBron James on the Sixers.”?
- THE SIXERS ARE IN THIRD PLACE.
Sunday afternoon vs. the Mavs is the next game on the slate. It could be #50.