They didn’t even play that well and still beat the Jazz by seven points in Utah without Joel Embiid.
That’s five in a row for the Sixers, who improve to 6-4 this season with a 4-2 road record.
It was January 9, 2012, the last time Philly won five games in a row. Andre Iguodala put up 20, 9, and 5 in a 96-86 win against the Pacers. Lou Williams added 13 off the bench and Tyler Hansbrough was still in the league.
So it’s been awhile since we’ve seen this kind of success, and I’m not still not even convinced they’ve played their best basketball this year. Again we saw Brett Brown’s team come flying out of the gates only to slump through an ugly 14-point second quarter.
But again they shot above 44% from three-point range and ripped off timely steals, blocks, and defensive stops. Again they outworked another team in their home building. Again and again and again. They just find a way to get it done despite the circumstances.
1) Big foul trouble
One of those circumstances last night was foul trouble.
Richaun Holmes, stepping in for Embiid, picked up two early fouls and went to the bench with 7:15 on the clock. He picked up this fourth foul with 11:38 remaining in the third. He finished with 6 points and 5 rebounds on 2-3 shooting and really tried to make the most of a limited 15-minute outing.
Amir Johnson fared maybe a bit better, grabbing four offensive boards and three defensive boards in 22 minutes of +20 basketball. He didn’t score from the field, but gave the Sixers enough oomph off the bench to spackle over the Holmes problem.
Jahlil Okafor even made a brief cameo and immediately got into foul trouble, which we’ll get to later.
But the Sixers got great minutes from Dario Saric last night, who finished with a game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds. It’s clear that he just finds his rhythm more easily when he’s in the starting lineup. He shot 7-13 and 5-9 from three-point range last night while also giving the Sixers some strength at the rim to help with the big man foul trouble issue. Turns out that flexibility to use him as a pseudo-5 in key moments is going to be a big help when these Embiid-less situations arise.
Dario didn’t even want to answer a question about himself at halftime, and deflected instead:
Dario Saric didn't want to talk about himself, he only wanted to talk about the Sixers pic.twitter.com/Az5mTa4r6W
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) November 8, 2017
If Saric sounded completely gassed there, he probably was. That’s what playing at altitude does to you.
For all of the perceived trouble inside last night, the Sixers held the Jazz to just 34 points in the paint.
2) 16, 13, 6, 3, and 3
Consensus online was that Ben Simmons played his worst NBA game.
He confirmed that post-game with Molly Sullivan:
“That was probably the worst game individually I’ve played since I’ve been in the league. Too many turnovers, missed shots, defensive missed opportunities, but we still won so I’m happy.”
For Ben, a “worst” performance is 16 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks.
(Lumbergh from Office Space voice)
“Yeaa…. uh… okay.”
What if Ben puts in his “best” performance?
Simmons turned it over six times, shot a fourth quarter air ball, and clanked a jumper off the side of the back board but still finished with I think four highlight-reel dunks and an alley-oop from inside that horrendous mid-court green and blue Jazz logo:
Simmons with the 45 foot alleyoop Pass pic.twitter.com/xBPY2PsV9K
— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) November 8, 2017
Defensively I thought he was solid, turning his steals into transition opportunities and pushing the tempo as he usually does. He seemed to play a step ahead of everyone else last night, which you see on this play here, which I don’t think got enough social media traction last night:
Omg Ben Simmons just switching with ease pic.twitter.com/DtSbIMt3e3
— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) November 8, 2017
Offensively, you saw the same court awareness on plays like this one, where he starts without the ball, brushes Ricky Rubio, and rolls right to the rim for the alley-oop:
The Sixers’ defense was pretty good last night for at least three quarters. Robert Covington was all over the place in the first, getting over screens and pestering on the perimeter.
That said, Utah couldn’t throw the ball in the Great Salt Lake.
They shot 30-99 (30.3%) and 9-39 (23.1%) from three-point range. Individually, Donovan Mitchell went 3-21 from the floor and Ricky Rubio finished 4-16, but still earned high grades from Pro Football Focus.
Mitchell and Rubio: 7-37 (18.9%), 2-16 three-point range (12.5%).
It was the second time Rubio shot 25% from the field this season. Third time it happens, he has to cut his hair.
Mitchell came into the game having scored 28, 25, and 17 in his last three games. He’s shown a lot of good things this season but also went 1-7 three times in four games last month.
That’s what we call “streaky.”
I’m not gonna sit here and drop Jahlil Okafor hot takes. He’s played two games this year, doesn’t have rhythm, doesn’t have conditioning, and isn’t in proper mental shape to play NBA basketball.
Anyone is gonna look bad after going through his last couple of weeks.
Jah came in a the end of the first quarter for Amir Johnson and endured a nightmare stretch of this:
- missed 20-footer
- free-throw lane violation
- layup blocked
His night was done after those three minutes.
No, Jah was never a great defender, but he looked like a shell of the player who gave us nice flashes of ability back in 2015. I’m not cheering for the guy to fail, but I think you just bite the bullet, do the buyout, and move on.