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Around the NBA: Jimmy Butler, Harden’s dunk, Markelle Fultz

Miami Heat v Toronto Raptors Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Your home-town Sixers are currently a 5 seed in the East. The core has struggled to all be on the court together. Whether it’s a suspension here, load management there, or a nagging hamstring, they have not had their starters all available 12 times out of their 21 games. That’s only happened in 9 games. Perhaps with more continuity, they’ll continue to see improved chemistry.

Let’s take a look around the league this morning.

Jimmy Butler gets some revenge

Jimmy Butler shared in the heartbreak the Sixers experienced in Scotia Bank Arena, Toronto last May. Now on his new team, he played the role of the closer for Miami. The game went to overtime and that’s where Butler turned it up a notch. He scored the extra period’s first 8 points. And and-1 on (thorn in Joel Embiid’s side) Marc Gasol, a pull-up deep ball off a screen, and a steal for a dunk. Toronto never recovered from the barrage and Miami improved to 15-5. They hold the 2 seed in the east, and it leaves some fans to wonder what might have been had the off-season gone differently.

James Harden’s Dunk, undunks itself

Houston appeared to be putting the finishing touches on a road win in San Antonio last night when James Harden appeared to miss a dunk. Upon closer look, however, and it’s clear that the ball goes through the rim, gets snagged in the net, then comes back out. It’s understandable how it fooled the officials in real time. What’s less forgivable? It’s frustrating when everyone watching at home learns the truth about a play mere seconds after it happens and nothing can be done. What’s the difference in the rule book about double checking a shot went through the rim and double checking if a players foot was on the line for a three or a two? Or whether or not a player’s hand was “above the cylinder” on a goal tend? Why is a play that is as fixable as any other not fixable? It’s not like we don’t have the technology to get these right.

As it turns out, Lonnie Walker, the player selected two picks after Zhaire Smith in 2018, went absolutely bananas scoring 19 points in the 4th to force overtime. And eventually the Spurs won the game in double OT:

Markelle Fultz finding his rhythm

I don’t know if it was ever going to happen in Philadelphia, but it’s happening in Orlando. Markelle Fultz is helping his team, and he’s playing well:

I’m not quite sure if he’s spacing the floor enough to earn minutes in Brett Brown’s current rotation, or if he ever would have gotten to the place he is currently at mentally or physically in this town, but credit to Fultz. In Orlando, he’s playing two ends of the floor. His handle is back and he’s hitting pull-ups and free throws. This time a year ago, he was being mocked by Amari Cooper during NFL celebrations and looked out of sorts on a court.

If he continues at this pace, he will certainly have a chance to make it hurt for Sixer fans to see him knock down pull-up 3s. For now, let’s just be happy for the young man with the warrior spirit who has been through more than most young players.

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