With just seconds remaining, Corey Brewer took the line. The score was 121-120. First free throw...miss. Second free throw...connect.
At this point, with 1.1 seconds remaining, the game could have gone one of two ways. Either the Spurs were going to advance the ball and likely pass to Marco Belinelli, whose infamous threes every Philly fan saw flash before their eyes in that moment. Or the Sixers were going to somehow get the ball back.
A combination of the two happened. With an inbound from Rudy Gay for the Spurs, the ball was passed to Belinelli, but Simmons was there to greet him with a powerful swat to end the game.
Heading in to the night, there was a chance that all three of the Sixers’ stars might not play. Luckily, Ben Simmons, who was listed as a game time decision due to an upper respiratory infection, played and looked rather healthy at that. Joel Embiid needed only a bit of the second quarter to stretch his aching back and he returned to the court. Unfortunately, Jimmy Butler missed his second game in a row due to a sprained wrist.
But perhaps one man’s injury is another man’s opportunity. At least this was the case for Corey Brewer and Landry Shamet, during the 76ers’ nail-biting win over the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday evening.
Brewer, who holds a 10-day contract with the Sixers, started in place of Butler. In his 28 minutes of play, while he may have only contributed nine points, Brewer provided two crucial assists for Simmons and JJ Redick.
Leading the team was Embiid. With his 33 points, 19 rebounds and three assists, the Sixers truly could not have pulled off the win without him. Time and time again he put pressure on the basket and provided second chances for missed shots with his impeccable rebounding. With eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Embiid had single-handedly scored 14-straight points for Philly.
Simmons, despite his aforementioned respiratory infection, showed no visible signs of being under the weather. With 21 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds on the night, Simmons was a critical component of maintaining composure when Embiid stepped away and the younger bench players filled in.
Trouble came for the Sixers in the form of DeMar DeRozan (to be expected) and LaMarcus Aldridge. DeRozan recorded 26 points, nine rebounds and three assists at 63.2% from the field. Aldridge saw 13 points, five rebounds and six assists at 41.6%.
Philadelphia is back on the road for their next game against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.