Whew. The seemingly endless four game losing streak is over. Christmas day was eons ago. Back then Philadelphia sent a message to the world: “sure we haven’t been the best team in the east, but unlike some other teams we’re not putting pedal to the metal yet, we’re jogging to win a marathon, but when we do push, everyone including the MVP is in major trouble.” But maybe that narrative or those laurels were a little too comfy to rest on. After that, the Sixers no-showed against the Orlando Magic and a late game surge simply wasn’t enough to get the win. Next they had the Miami Heat dead to rights but simply handed the game away with a couple of mental lapses during the “salt it away” portion of the battle. They probably botched their “load management program” and played their best player in back-to-back games including an overtime loss so they wound up without Joel Embiid for the game in Indiana when he picked up a sore knee and so they had no shot there. Then they were given the business by James Harden and Clint Capela in Houston. So after a win tonight... like I said, whew.
The decade passed, a few Sixers called each other out for not calling each other out, every Sixer was included in dozens of fake trades and suddenly it felt like a must win, even though it was just another game against the Oklahoma City Thunder:
And then within a few minutes into the contest, this:
I feel like Joel Embiid’s finger probably shouldn’t look like this pic.twitter.com/BaNde7t7Nh— Dave Loughran (@Loughy_D) January 7, 2020
Embiid would get his dislocated finger re-set and taped before he returned. He did appear to be plagued by discomfort throughout the game but chipped in a near triple-double with 18 points 9 boards and 8 assists. The 8 dimes was a season high for him. After the game he admitted that the situation forced him to adapt and play-make rather than grip the ball and score.
We have to hope that the team dutifully ruled out ligament damage already and that there will be no need for an MRI, but also hope that if they do order him one it comes back fully clean. They can’t afford to lose Embiid for a significant amount of time.
Ben Simmons was a game high +18 plus-minus. He had 17 points, 15 boards, and 8 assists. His game may have felt quiet to folks who focus on scoring but he took six free throws and nailed five of them to go along with his typical versatility on defense. His late work on the offensive glass was instrumental as he batted out balls for extra possessions and some valuable clock control.
For those who have been monitoring the bench points and substitution patterns, Trey Burke continued to carve out a role for himself and helped his team. The former Wolverine dropped twelve points with two dimes on 5-7 from the field and 2-3 from deep. He’s given the Sixers plenty of reasons to guarantee his contract for the rest of the season this week and he’s distanced himself from Raul Neto in the quiet tourney for bench minutes.
Tobias Harris hit the dagger triple:
Great board by Embiid and kick out to Harris for the clutch 3 pic.twitter.com/8x6PCSwaoS— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) January 7, 2020
That shot put the good guys up 9 with under one minute to play. Harris was efficient finishing with 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists and 4-6 from deep. Josh Richardson led the Sixers with 23 points. It’s the 7th time Josh has dropped 20 or more in a game this season.
For the Thunder, Steven Adams led the charge with a monster line. The humongous Kiwi had 24 and 15 continuing the mini-streak of centers playing well quite against the Sixers. Dennis Schroeder chipped in 21 points and Chris Paul had 18, 8, and 6 himself.
Here is a look, via ESPN of some of the team vs. team stats:
The Sixers did well controlling the ball and not turning it over and even though they got out rebounded they shot the ball well from deep and from the line. They got our ran by a mile in the fast-break points battle but made up for it a bit by dominating in the paint and by passing well. They had 31 dimes and again just ten turnovers. Before the game was in hand, they executed well down the stretch.
Next up is the Celtics in Boston. Philadelphia will be rested and Boston will be coming off a back-to-back. Their star Kemba Walker has missed a few games in a row with an illness but should have plenty of time to recuperate to tackle your Broadstreet Bullies. A win against the rival Celts would go a very long way to erasing the four-game skid. Hopefully Embiid’s finger is less crooked by then and he can give it a go. He did add he hopes he can play on Wednesday but acknowledged that’s not a given due to the finger, per Dave Uram of KYW Newsradio.