Really thought (to much of the commenters’ delight) that I was going to have to cancel the Sexers series after their miserable play sans Joel Embiid. While they haven’t met the overall sexpectations that the offseason was building to, they are still, like, good enough I guess. The team just absolutely refuses to string together a win streak of any value without pulling a 180 and playing like poo. So far this season the Sixers have had two separate five-game win streaks that were immediately followed by a three-game losing skid. The best stretch of play undoubtedly came in late-November to mid-December when the team won 13 of 15 games. But even then, they weren’t obliterating teams that are widely considered “obliteratable.”
This past week, the team went 2-2 with two terrible, ugly, brutal losses to the Mavericks and Pacers. Those losses were sandwiched by yet another convincing win against the Celtics, and a daring win against the Nets.
The toned-down Joel Embiid seems to have taken a toll on the overall fun factor of this team. As Tyler Monahan wrote recently, the Sixers seem to be having a “fun” problem.
Much like Adam Driver, the team is proving the theory that to be truthfully hot, you need to be a little ugly.
Sexer #1: Josh Richardson
The Eastern Conference Player of the Week! How bout that. J-Rich is probably a top-3 Sexer in terms of purity. The guy just radiates good energy, even if his jumper looks broke as hell.
His ECPOTW award comes off his nearly 23-points-per-game week, including a 29-point explosion to help the Sixers clinch the season series over the Celtics for the first time since the 2013 season.
Josh with the good hair also poofed out his fro again, which is a personal favorite for me.
Outside of Matisse, J-Rich might be the only Sixer who I haven’t been outwardly annoyed at all season. He seems to just get a fit, come out, play basketball, smile, scream loudly to no one in particular, then go on twitter. A wonderful life.
Sexer #2: Tobias Harris
For like the fourth week in a row, I’m gonna say that Tobias is really making more strides and is looking like he is worth the $180 million contract. But this week, Tobias is really making more strides and is looking like he is worth the $180 million contract. A 34-point outburst led the Embiid-less Sixers over the top and sealed a victory against the Nets, to polish an ever so beautiful 19-2 home record.
With no Joel, Tobias looked like he knew he had to be the guy in the second half of the Nets game. He was hitting shots all over the court, taking defenders off the dribble, moving off ball to hit spot up 3s, and just overall imposing his will on the offensive side of the ball.
His defensive impact numbers remain much better than expected, as he has now risen above Ben Simmons (+1.00) in DPIPM on the season, currently standing at +1.30 DPIPM.
His human side shows in postgame pressers, where he shows his confidence in himself:
Sexer #3: Ben Simmons
Again, with Joel Embiid out, Ben is the other Sixer who will be relied upon heavily to step up and perform with more room to operate and with a lineup that is more equipped to his push-the-pace mentality.
FirstHalfBen has made some strong appearances lately. Looking to be an unsolvable, unstoppable force in the first half, only to be solved fairly easily in the second half.
In the first halves of the last three games (58 total minutes vs Dallas, Indiana, Brooklyn), Simmons was 21-of-28 from the field, with 13 rebounds, 11 assists, five steals, and a plus-20 overall.
In the second halves of those three games (60 total minutes,) Simmons was 3-of-13 from the field, had 9 points, went 3-of-7 from the line, and was a minus-29 (!!!!). He maintained his rebound and assist numbers very well, but that kind of drop off in scoring production is bonkers, and a real problem. If Tobias Harris hadn’t swooped in to save the day against the Nets, the Sixers would’ve dropped all three of those matches.
Idk if it’s the defeated feeling of going into the locker room at half and seeing that Kendall didn’t text him or what, but I hope it changes soon!
Nonetheless, Simmons is still leading the league in steals per game (2.1), total steals (85), and is top-five in deflections per game, total deflections, loose balls recovered per game, and leads the league in total loose balls recovered. A true hustler.
Sexer #4: Matisse Thybulle
He’s back. He’s beautiful. Now four games back from his knee injury, he hasn’t really done anything. He blocked Kyrie Irivng’s jump shot, and that counts for a lot I think. But his smile, that damn smile. Ugh. Just so happy our four-minute-mile defensive savant superkid is back.
His biggest highlight came on the team plane where, as rookie duties, he was in charge of getting the team fast food meal for the plane ride. As he explained, he was trying to do a nice thing and snagged a few Popeyes biscuits as an extra treat for the team, although they did not see it that way, as Tobias Harris and Kyle O’Quinn dragged the rookie for not getting enough for the full team.
Other Sexers Things:
Once we have THE James Ennis game in the Finals, his statue should be him ever so sincerely asking for a bite of that biscuit.
Furkan Korkmaz was yelling and hollering and shooting the hell out of the ball in the Nets game, going 3-of-6 from deep and basically taking over for Tobias Harris early in the fourth quarter.
Next up for the team is a home affair against the very bad Chicago Bulls, a two-game roadie in the New Yorks, and then up to the cursed building in T*ronto.