The fun of the moment was almost overshadowed by the game itself. The Sixers came back from a 17 point 3rd quarter deficit to win a hard fought 109-104 game versus the Knicks.
Aside from his 3, Simmons played a fantastic game. He tallied 18 points, 13 assists, 7 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block. It begs the question; now that it’s happened, will anything really change with how he plays? The fact that it has taken so long for him to attempt one shows that he is slow to change, at least to some degree.
Butler Returns, Comments on his Departure
Jimmy Butler knew what to expect when he returned to Philadelphia. His hard nosed attitude resonate with the city in his brief time as a Sixer. That’s why he wasn’t surprised, or bother by the reception he got last Saturday.
Butler was booed every time he touched the ball. Josh Richardson, who came to the Sixers in the sign and trade with the Heat, led all scorers with 32 points on 11-15 shooting. The Sixers rolled to a 113-86 victory. Butler managed just 11 points on 4-5 shooting. After the game he downplayed any perceived animosity between himself and former teammates.
“As much as I want to win a championship, I want them to strive and win that exact same trophy.”
Butler was complimentary of his former teammates, but initially a cryptic answer about why he choose to leave Philly.
“Obviously, something happened,” Butler told reporters from The Athletic after the game. “We’re not going to say what it was. We’re not going to go into detail. We can’t keep living on that. They can’t. But I’m happy, man. It brings me joy, being around this group of guys (in Miami). I don’t regret nothing, you feel me?”
“But everybody don’t do that [work hard enough]. Everybody don’t work like that. That’s just what it is. …Is there something wrong with it? No there’s not… Is everybody playing this game for a championship?…There is so many other things that people can play this game for.”
Butler is now on his fourth team. The departures from each of the previous three have all sounded a lot like this one. The most recent isn’t as outwardly hostile, but at a certain point Butler has at least some culpability. He seems happy now in Miami, and the Heat are a high class organization. The talent level might not be at the level of Philadelphia (it certainly wasn’t last Saturday), and there’s really no way of telling how long Butler will want to stay.
Re-match vs. Toronto Not as Successful
Two nights later, the Sixers returned to the place where their season ended in May. It wasn’t the same Raptors of old; Kawhi Leonard has since left for the Clippers, and Kyle Lowry missed the game as he continues to recover from a thumb injury. In almost every sense, the Raptors were weaker while the Sixers had bolstered their lineup.
But other the familiar faces showed up in a big way. Marc Gasol frustrated Embiid all night, holding him scoreless for the first time in his career. Fred VanVlett, who averaged all of 2 points in the series vs Philadelphia, scored 24 points (9-15 shooting) and 8 assists. Paskal Siakam dropped 25 points as well. Despite getting nothing from Embiid, the Sixers had a chance late in the game. After Toronto missed with 18 seconds left, Simmons raced up the court only to make an ill-advised lob attempt to Tobias Harris. The pass was stolen by Siakam and the Raptors hung on for a 101-96 victory.
I get why Simmons attempted that pass. It was open, and if made slightly earlier it probably results in an alley-oop dunk to take the lead. But the problem with that is it would have left the Raptors with 11 seconds to get the final shot. The play for the Sixers should have been to take a timeout and draw something up, which is something they have been good at so far this year. Crunch time execution is a problem, and they need to solve it by the playoffs.
Starting Lineup Starts to Shine
Between minor injuries, suspensions, and load management, the Sixers did not have much opportunity to evaluate their starting five in the beginning of the season. Lately things have evened out and the results are very good. The five man lineup of Simmons, Embiid, Richardson, Tobias Harris, and Al Horford, boasts a +21.3 net rating (110.0 offensive rating and 88.7 defensive rating). That ranks 3rd among lineups that have played in at least 9 games.
Thybulle’s Best Game
Rookie Matisse Thybulle has played somewhat inconsistent minutes so far. There’s no question about his upside as a defender. It’s as real as it gets. But his offensive limitations can sink possessions on offense, and it behooves the Sixers to avoid that. Thybulle put it all together on Wednesday versus Sacramento. It was his best game as a pro: 15 points (5-5 shooting, including 3 three pointers and 2 foul shots), 3 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 blocks.
“You just got to be ready for every opportunity because being a rookie you don’t know what’s going to be coming your way and you’ve got to be able to step up when it’s your time when they call your name,” Thybulle said after his performance.
In what’s becoming common in the NBA, the 76ers once again have new uniforms.
I’m not crazy about the cream (or as the Sixers refer to it, “parchment”) colored base of the jersey, but it’s a clean looking kit. Not the most adventurous, but the branding and design of the Sixers right now doesn’t really allow for a unique style, like Utah or Miami. The team also debuted their “Classic” edition uniform against the Spurs last week.
All stats via NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com