UHHHHHHH... they won that game?!?
If you turned things off because you had flashbacks to Hawks losses of the past, I understand where you’re coming from, but the Sixers, however improbable it may have been, fought back TOUGH in the fourth quarter for a wild win that should bring a legit momentum boost, especially given the opponent.
The Sixers won the type of game they always lose!
Here are three little rants from me following the Sixers’ 98-96 win:
1. Joel Embiid: offensive force. Sixers fans haven't seen the big fella look like that in a minute!
Injuries and illness have left Embiid in an unfortunate position, as the team has crumbled around him with the Ben Simmons situation ongoing and Tobias Harris becoming persona non grata in this city. In the Sixers’ current structure, he’s being asked to be the fulcrum of the offense on the perimeter at times while also performing like the best low post big man on the planet. He’s being asked to do everything.
“Heavy is the head that wears the crown,” yes.
Embiid balled out tonight though. He was SO fired up following Danilo Gallinari’s missed three-pointer at the end of regulation. I love it. I love the fire. I love injecting any semblance of vivacity into a Sixers squad that had become the worst thing you want from your favorite sports team: both bad and boring.
That 28-12-4 performance from Embiid is something Sixers fans were accustomed to during his MVP-caliber campaign last season. There was never a better time than tonight for a “get it together” level of production.
2. Seth. Adham. Curry.
Going into tonight, Seth Curry’s true shooting percentage was a career high while having his second-highest usage percent in the pros. His jump in volume given Simmons’ absence hasn’t diminished his efficiency in the slightest. Is there an age limit as to when a player can win with the Most Improved Player Award? Curry is in his age-31 season, but the dude really deserves it about a quarter of the way through this season.
Seth led that fourth quarter comeback. The Sixers outscored Atlanta 20-9 in the final period. The Sixers’ season hasn’t been what fans wanted, but how much worse would things be without Curry in Sixers red, white and blue? What would Sixers fans be doing? Running lottery simulations on Tankathon?
3. Listen, I need to say something...
I want people to savor this win. It’s deserved for a team that hasn’t been fun as of late. They’re off until Monday. Live it up this weekend, enjoy your time with family and friends and revel in the fact that the Sixers grabbed a W they had no business of snatching on national television for the whole basketball community to see.
The win was heavenly, but I can’t ignore the elephant in the room, one that will not go away until the Sixers can find true postseason success in the next handful of years:
The Hawks own my brain.
It took me until now to write it. My Sixers-specific psyche is damaged following that collapse against Atlanta over the summer.
There wasn’t a moment I thought they were going to win that game until Gallo missed that three.
I mean, how do you get over that series? How do you pretend things are fine as that lingers in the back of your head? The current Sixers are worse than they were last season and they had multiple historic collapses in a seven-game playoff series loss. They had, at least losers like myself thought, the easiest path to the Finals imaginable in a title chase that was wide open across both conferences.
Trae Young and Kevin Huerter’s play will likely linger in the back of younger Philly sports fans’ minds the same way older generations look back on Jeff Carter’s missed shot in Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Ronde Barber’s pick-6 in the 2002 NFC Championship Game and so on and so forth.
I need tonight to be an inflection point. Winning a game a team should’ve lost on the road against a hated opponent on the national stage is tremendous. It really is. The Sixers are human beings and it’s understandable that members of the organization may feel the same way I do. Again, want this to be the moment the tide turns. Can it be? Can something good last in Sixersland?
4. This isn’t really related to tonight’s game, but it’s something long-term LB readers may appreciate:
The whole “players leave and always get way better elsewhere” take about Philly athletes isn't based in reality. Yeah, look at the way Jahlil Oakfor and Markelle Fultz have taken the sports landscape by storm. A guy who’s actually had an incredible run in his post-Sixers career though? Lou Williams. LouWill is somehow still only 35, one of the last vestiges of an era where players would leap straight to the NBA from high school. He’s picked up three Sixth Man of the Year awards since he left Philadelphia following the 2012 season.
He came up in a weird era. The Sixers were dinosaurs in the pre-Sam Hinkie era, as the front office members would spontaneously combust if they even saw a TI-89 calculator in the building. These were not forward-thinking people. The whole idea of a nominal, traditional “point guard” still loomed large, though the modern game (how is the basketball I watched in high school no longer the modern game?) revolves around “lead guards” who are more so scorers first with the added ability to distribute. “Is a point guard? Is he a 2-guard?” Who cares? The Sixers had no one who could create their own shot besides him and it was awesome watching him crush it in 2-for-1 situations at the end of first halves.
He infuriated a lot of the fan base. He infuriated head coach/old man who forgot to take his nap Doug Collins. He was a “real hooper” before Twitter latched onto that phrase.
It made all the sense in the world to break up the 2012 Sixers who went seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston, as they were the flukiest team in the history of flukes. The Sixers should not have gone out of their way to retain Williams, but it’s hilariously sad that he’s the exact type of player they’ve desperately needed during the Embiid era.