Life Post-Trade Deadline: So Far, So Good

In possibly the most explosive game since the trade deadline last Thursday, the new look Philadelphia 76ers absolutely imposed their will upon the Lakers (boy does that feel good to say). Despite Kyle Kuzma’s 39 points, the Sixers won 143-120.

The Lakers, who are often touted as a strong defensive team, gave up 34 points in the 4th Quarter, and 33 minimum for each quarter.

LeBron James looked like he’s still working his way back in after the longest absence in his career.

Life with Tobias Harris has gone great thus far, he posted 22 points including 3 3-balls and on 9-14 from the field.

Embiid was the man of the night, with 37 points, 14 rebounds, and a steal. He posted his career high in points last season against the Lakers. The Lakers situation is dire at best, as Javale McGee still plays well within his limited minutes, and Tyson Chandler is lacking offensively when he takes over for McGee. As such, it’s not surprising that Embiid was able to beast on this Lakers squad.

One underrated aspect of this game was how well the Sixers shared and moved the ball. Butler had a good game with 15 points, as well as doing some great on ball defense on players like Brandon Ingram, who it seemed to be easy for Butler to force into errors or poor shot selection. Ingram had 19 points but was a -8 on BP/M.

JJ Redick had 15 points on only 3 3-point makes, which was that absolutely insane and-1 shot from nearly behind the backboard in the corner.

Ben Simmons struggled tonight, which isn’t all that surprising: he seemed a little bit passive and unsure immediately after the Butler trade, but found his rhythm again just before the Harris trade. However, Simmons was operating on no shortage of aggression this time. He took his very first pull up 3-pointer, which was an unlucky rattle away from going in. He also took many more shots from outside of the paint, and was intent on hitting turn-around jumpers out of the post. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t surprise me if Simmons looks a little uncertain in the near future, as this team clearly still has to figure out effective ways to share the ball with as many high-usage threats in their starting 5.

Simmons was a +6 on BP/M, despite having no double digits on the stat-line. He did, however, play some fantastic defense, including one impressive block down-low against LeBron James.

While wins over a strong Denver team and a LeBron led clown-fest feels good, the Sixers’ true test post-deadline comes Tuesday at home against Boston. They lost the first game of the season against Boston, and lost a close OT game against Boston Christmas Day, both of which were away. The Sixers are great at home, but Boston has historically been a bane for Philly. Although it’s important to note, this is not the same Philadelphia squad as was seen in either the first nor second meeting between the two. Boston is also in a shaky place culturally, after their crazy comeback lost to the Sixers-er, I mean the Clippers’ own Landry Shamet. Man, that will never stop hurting to say.

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Simmons, Embiid Shine as Sixers Win an Absolute Thriller

In a late game surge that involved two 4-point plays, multiple defensive stops, and clutch time management, the Sixers slid in a W against San Antonio tonight.

Embiid posted a 33 point and 19 rebound double-double, and Simmons put up 21 with 10 rebounds and 15 assists for the triple-double. Notable was the team’s strong shooting tonight, making a collective 17 3-point shots from 7 different players, including 10-day player Corey Brewer, who started for Butler who sat tonight. Simmons made a couple cute turnaround jumpers and hooks, which helped him tack points on from further out.

The young fellows came up big tonight to pick up the slack left from missing Butler.

The team as a whole, but specifically Embiid and Simmons, came up strong defensively late in the game against one of the most efficient shooting teams in the league, and kept turnovers to an absolute minimum for the night.

The Sixers are now 3-1 in their hell stretch against teams with winning records, now winning 2 in a row at home before they take on a 4-game West Coast swing.

Coming out with a win tonight was huge, as the Spurs are one of the most well-coached teams in the league, and they play a very unique type of basketball in the current NBA. For all of their flaws on defense, one of the Sixers’ strengths in that regard is their ability to force their opponents into taking mid-range shots. The only problem is, the Spurs make those shots. Up and down the entire roster are players who not only survive but thrive in the mid-range, specifically Aldridge and DeRozan, with some deadeye 3-point shooters like Bryn Forbes, to boot.

Additionally, leaving with a win despite not having star forward Jimmy Butler in the rotations was big for the team. Not only were they short a man, as they almost always are, but they were simultaneously working Corey Brewer into the lineup and into a starting spot during a 10-day contract. Thankfully, Brewer and the rest of the bench have stepped up so far, which has made the occasional night off or bad day for the Big 3 easier to work through.

Quick Hits: Butler’s Big Night Caps Off Start to Sixers’ Tough Stretch

In the Sixers’ away game against the Indiana Pacers Thursday night, there were reasons for optimism up and down the roster, but not the least of which was Jimmy Butler exploding for 27 points and 5 rebounds.

Impossible to ignore was Embiid’s limited but crucial presence, as he played 35 minutes with frequent breaks due to lower back soreness and stiffness. It sure felt like he only played 25 minutes or so, but he took plenty of short breaks to the bench to be worked on by the training staff.

Butler was uncharacteristically athletic and jumpy tonight, which was a sight for sore eyes.

Every single one of Indiana’s starters posted a negative +/-, even Thad Young who had 27 points. All of the Sixers’ starters, even including Chandler, somehow, had a positive +/-.

This game comes as a huge morale boost as the Sixers begin a truly hellish stretch of games over the next few weeks. Plenty of away games against Western Conference teams, and every team until they play the Knicks in February have winning records.

This game was against a well-coached, fantastic shooting and strong defensive team, and the Sixers came to play tonight. This was especially significant as the Pacers are among the echelon of teams that the Sixers would play in either the first round of the playoffs (4/5 seed game) or the second round. Of course, on any given night Oladipo would probably have a better game, and Muscala isn’t going to be knocking down corner 3’s in a 7-game series.

Speaking of 3-balls, Redick went 6-9 from beyond the arc, including some contested shots off the dribble and plenty of Dribble-Hand-Off action with Embiid.

The Sixers are back in action against the Thunder Saturday, in another early game in the gauntlet.

Joel Embiid Triumphantly Returned to Talking Shit on Twitter, and It’s Glorious

After the Philadelphia 76ers’ dominant 149-197 win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Joel Embiid did something we haven’t seen in a while: he took to Twitter.

For reasons unknown, Embiid has been relatively quiet on social media this season, compared to last season where he would post pictures of him dunking on Russell Westbrook even after a loss. If I had to guess, Embiid wanted to let his play speak for itself as he embarked on an MVP campaign. But regardless of the ‘why,’ here is Embiid’s tweet about the game last night:

Embiid hilariously refers to the pre-trade Butler drama in Minnesota.

For context, the Minnesota Timberwolves was the team Jimmy Butler demanded a trade from in order to end up on the Sixers, and Embiid is specifically referring to an event which took place at a Timberwolves’ practice.

Butler came to the practice, even though he was not really supposed to because of the trade request, hopped into the scrimmage with the 3rd string lineup, and proceeded to beat the starters, including Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Reportedly, Butler talked a lot of mess to the starters, as well as making a scene in front of the front office. Butler later claimed (on a podcast with teammate JJ Redick) that he only took a single shot in the scrimmage.

Butler’s primary grievance with the two young Timberwolves was their lack of urgency to win, and Embiid’s tweet shows that not only is he about that hustle, but he’s trying to prove a point in doing so, as Butler did in the scrimmage earlier this year.

For one thing, I hope Embiid will start to feel himself a little bit again. He seems to have doubted himself at times this year despite his unprecedented performance, and with a long, hard stretch of games coming up, the team could use the confidence.