Ben Simmons returned to form, the fans got free frosties, and the Sixers eeked out a win. Everything is right in Philadelphia for a day, and Brett Brown doesn’t need to be fired until the Sixers’ next loss. In what was a closer game than coach Brown would have preferred, the 76ers (8-5) were able to steal victory from a plucky Hornets (6-6) team on the back of their superstar centre, Joel Embiid. Embiid has been remarkable this season and tonight was no exception as he posted 42 points (on only 18 shots), 18 rebounds, and 4 blocks. It’s JoJo’s league leading 12th double-double in 13 games to start the season.
The Sixers led by double digits for much of the game, however on the back of Kemba Walker, the Hornets were able to wrestle back the lead in the 4th quarter and overtime. Walker, along with every star guard in the NBA, has been mentioned in possible trade rumours with the Sixers this season. He showed the Sixers fans that they could do much worse than the UConn product on his way to 30 points and 9 assists, while being hounded by Robert Covington’s All NBA defence.
The Hornets’ frontline was no match for Embiid as he lived at the foul line, hitting 19 of 22 attempts. He dunked and dominated all night, and the Hornets looked truly hapless; they had no answer for him. Many have been waiting for a regression from Embiid, wondering if his scintillating start to the season is sustainable or if the Cameroonian would come back down to earth. However, the big guy is going from strength to strength this season, and it looks like Sixers fans can come to expect this level of play from their charismatic franchise player. In fact, Embiid doesn’t only think his play is sustainable, but that he still has plenty of room to improve. “Last year, in the last minute situations, I struggled a lot and I feel like this year I’ve been doing a better job. I still got a lot to show and still got a lot to improve on, so I’m excited,” said Embiid postgame.
Embiid continued being a human embodiment of a blow torch on the basketball court, as he hit some huge shots and carried the team down the stretch during the 4th and overtime. “I mean, he responded all over the place. We kept going to him. He gets that deep positioning, he creates a collision and a physicality that exposes any type of physical play on the defensive side,” Brett Brown said after the game. After the first healthy off season of his career, Embiid is truly showing why he has drawn comparisons to Hakeem Olojuwan. The jump he has made this season has been nothing short of remarkable. Along with being the best big man in the league this year, Joel figures to feature heavily in early MVP discussions, as well as DPOY.
Simmons, who has been affected by a back injury this year, may have had his best game yet. The second year point guard tallied 22/8/13/2/3 and showed off his versatile, elite defence throughout the game. Perhaps no bigger play came than with the game in the balance during overtime. After unfairly being called for a foul on a Kemba Walker three pointer in their last meeting, the 6’10” Aussie had no hesitation in making the right play with the game on the line. Simmons incredibly blocked the potential game-winning shot of all star Kemba Walker and was somehow able to recover and heavily contest a second attempt from Hornets guard Miles Bridges.
In what is reassuring to fans, “The Homie” Dario Saric continued his two-game hot streak from deep and provided some much needed spacing for the Sixers’ two young stars to operate. Somewhat concerning however, Markelle Fultz appeared to revert back to his clunky free throw form of last year, as he badly missed two freebies in the third quarter. Apart from that, Fultz looks to be more comfortable right now in his recently reduced role while he finds his feet on the NBA court.
The Sixers debuted their city uniforms tonight for the first time. Despite looking like puke and with the Sixers disappointingly using the jersey to promote an upcoming movie, the fans cheered loudly for Michael B Jordan as he joked about making a movie with Joel Embiid and compared his game to a “young prime Charles Barkley.”
After a slow start to the season that had some fans panicking, the team is currently on pace to win 51 games. The Sixers will need to back that up on Saturday night against the Grizzlies in a matchup they are expected to win, despite the short turn around.
Editor’s Note: Please welcome Tim Buecher to the Philly Front Office family. As we expand internationally, we are excited to have the Australia native join our team and share his passion for the Sixers with us. This is just the start of what we plan to be regular, solid content from Tim to you, our esteemed and beloved readers.