The night before Thanksgiving used to be about drinking with your high school friends.
Now it’s about watching the Wells Fargo Center crowd leave early in the 4th quarter because the Sixers are clubbing a team by 20 points.
Life comes at you fast, ya know? The Sixers have 10 wins going into Turkey Day for the first time since I have no clue.
Again, same story, they still haven’t played a complete game of basketball this season. Brett Brown graded his team post-game:
“Nobody’s ahead of ourselves, we are happy where we’re at, we’re certainly not content where we’re at. I think that really my judgement of the game is that I would give us an A on defense and a C- on offense. But, the record at this stage we are happy with that, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Brown said he’d take good defense and bad offense “any day of the week.”
Case in point, Robert Covington, who only had 9 points on 3-11 shooting but added 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals while limiting himself to only two personal fouls. His defense on C.J. McCollum was excellent, with the former Lehigh guard going for just five points on 1-14 shooting in 36 minutes.
Damian Lillard picked up the slack with 30 points, but needed 27 shots to get there. Portland overall shot 33.7% and 26.9% from three-point range.
There was also this:
Trail Blazers entered South Philly ranked second in defensive rating and first in rebounding percentage and got dominated on the glass and in paint
— Hesi Pull-Up Jimbo (@_JimmyMcCormick) November 23, 2017
The Sixers out-rebounded the Blazers 57 to 48 and matched the visitors with 11 on the offensive glass.
They’ve won 9 of 12 games with those three losses coming to the Kings, the Warriors, and the Warriors.
Defending Ben Simmons
You can’t, really. He got to his spots and finished with 16 points, but only shot 8-20 from the field.
So it’s about his finishing and it really always has been, which Brett Brown touched on afterward:
“I thought tonight he had a down game of finishing, a few times he got as close as you could ever imagine because they were (sagging) so far back. We saw last game he was coming to jump stops and gathering himself and going probably another foot to finish more easily over the front of the rim. But I think that’s the way the league has decided to play him lately, I think that he’s figuring it out just fine. I think the tandem of Joel Embiid and Ben in early offense, where Jo just almost like runs in front of him and brush cuts Ben’s man and gets him easy layups or dunks – they’re figuring that little trick out and I think that his growth is coming and that he’s getting used to how the league is playing him.”
Let’s look for a few examples of what Brett is talking about.
Embiid just sort of walks Jusuf Nurkic into Noah Vonleh, who does a really poor job of moving his feet to keep up with Simmons. Easy drive and finish there.
It’s not really a screen. It’s not pick and roll. It’s a brush cut, just how Brown describes it, with Embiid phasing across Simmons’ defender and giving Ben a step to work with. You see how quick he is to get through the lane on in those situations, so look for them to keep building on that. It’s unstoppable right now.
Embiid finished with a team-high 28 points and 12 rebounds. He picked up his 4th foul with 2:26 left in 3rd but Brown kept him in, and Joel played a smart sequence while keeping Portland at arms length.
Damian Lillard hit a free throw to cut the lead to nine, and Embiid did the following to close out the quarter:
- made 10-foot sky hook
- defensive rebound
- turnover (Vonleh steal)
- block on Ed Davis
- defensive rebound
- 17-foot jumper
- block on Lillard
That’s six points, two blocks, and two rebounds in the 2:26 that immediately followed his fourth personal foul.
I’ve talked about Joel sometimes losing focus mentally, but that certainly wasn’t the case here. He really stepped it up to close out the third quarter.
Make sure you watch the Lillard block over and over again:
Joel Embiid spikes Damian Lillard into middle earth pic.twitter.com/mPjEvHNG8I
— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) November 23, 2017
Not in the face
By my count, Jusuf Nurkic got elbowed in the face three times last night.
It happened twice in the opening three minutes, then he got whacked again in the second.
Nurkic finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds. He was 7 hits to the face short of a triple-double.
The crowd wants more
The Wells Fargo crowd went crazy for free Wendy’s frosties, a couple of courtside Philadelphia Eagles, and the dancing kid who kept appearing on the jumbotron.
They could not be sated.
They wanted more.
They wanted Jahlil Okafor to close out the game:
The fans chant "We Want Okafor!" and Joel Embiid urges them on. pic.twitter.com/1DxXgGBcOC
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 23, 2017
Brett Brown did not want Okafor, because he recognized the pity cheers from the crowd:
“I don’t it’s fair. I think you get into a playing rhythm, a playing routine, and that’s fair. To hoist somebody a tiny window of minutes isn’t something that interests me. And I say that out of respect to him. I don’t think that puts him in a position that I want to put him in.”