The Sixers had their 2nd overtime game against the Charlotte Hornets so far this season, the last being only 8 days prior, both of which they won. Absolutely crucial in the Sixers win for Saturday night’s game, in which Hornets guard Kemba Walker dropped a 60-bomb, was Jimmy Butler’s clutch physical plays late in the game.
Butler scored 9 of his 15 points in the 4th quarter and overtime, and had two absurdly athletic defensive plays to contain Kemba, one of which being a crazy no look chuck behind his head to keep the ball in bounds which was caught by Wilson Chandler to take the ball down in transition.
It’s been long documented that the Sixers need to keep the energy up late into games. The Sixers have played more games than any other team thus far except for the Warriors, whom they are tied with at 18, and Embiid is playing more minutes than nearly anyone with the Sixers lacking depth at center. Adding Jimmy Butler increases the energy and takes a load off of Simmons in playmaking and makes covering Simmons and the Big Fella even more complicated by adding another athletic player who can handle and plays well off-ball, in addition to his very respectable and physical defensive prowess. Butler’s late game takeover feels very reminiscent of the Iverson era, in which he just seemed to decide this game was his for the taking and playing hard to make it happen.
The legacy of the modern Sixers is built on physical and hard-working players, and I believe that’s what makes this “Big 3” so very Philly. The Barkley and Iverson years instilled an aggressive, dedicated, trash-talking, physical and punishing atmosphere in the team, and after the Bad Years of the early Process, it’s extremely refreshing to see that come back in its own way with each of these 3 generational talents. Simmons is a silent but hard-working presence with an uncanny feel for the game. Embiid would play all 48 minutes of all 82 games if he could, as he’s just that much of a competitor and he strives to improve in any way he can (like Google searching white people shooting 3’s). Finally there’s Butler. He embodies “killer instinct.” He puts his whole body into his defense, and he has the mental fortitude to enter crunch time and say to himself “We’re winning this game no matter what it takes. We are winning this game” and just completely take over when it matters most.
The gritty, tough Sixers are finally back, and boy is it going to be a fun watch.