For the second straight game, Markelle Fultz’s shoulder was a topic of discussion.
This time, it had nothing to do with whatever injury or non-injury kept him sidelined for 60 games, but rather the friendly fire first-half collision that knocked teammate Joel Embiid out of the game.
Fultz was trying to take a hand-off from Embiid, and with Frank Ntilikina pursuing from behind, Embiid bobbled the ball and went down to retrieve it, which caused Fultz to hit him right in the face:
Joel Embiid is headed into the locker room after a collision on the court
Here is the play where it happened. pic.twitter.com/LoP8wWl4C6
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) March 28, 2018
Just an accident there, nothing more. The Sixers run that dump off/DHO above the elbow about a million times per game, and Embiid will either hand it back to the point guard or let the player brush cut off of him. The bobble caused Joel to lower his head, and that’s how the contact happened.
Embiid left the game with a facial contusion, though he did not suffer a concussion and X-rays, we were told, came back negative. He was taken to a hospital for further testing, where he posted the following on Instagram:
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) March 29, 2018
The positive news is that Joel looks to have avoided serious injury and should be okay. They won’t need him in Atlanta on Friday anyway.
His departure made a somewhat straightforward game a bit nonlinear instead. With Amir Johnson already unavailable due to illness, the Sixers went to Richaun Holmes for extended minutes while also using Dario Saric as a stretch five paired with Ersan Ilyasova. A wobbly squad allowed the Knicks to tie the game at 60, only to regroup at halftime and slap around the visitors in the third quarter.
It was Saric leading the way again, a quiet 26 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals for the homie. JJ Redick added 21 and Holmes went for 15 and 7 off the bench.
I’m not sure what else there is to say about Dario at this point. Everybody knows how good he’s been this season, and I think his contributions are appreciated, but I still feel like we don’t talk about him enough.
He made the play of the game, a steal and dive with a volleyball bump for Ben Simmons, who flushed it down:
— NBA (@NBA) March 29, 2018
Saric cut his elbow on the play and had to go over to get the bleeding taken care of. That’s the type of sequence that endears you to Philadelphia fans forever, like that ex-Phillie who ran into the fence more than 10 years ago.
Brett Brown said this about the play:
“Fantastic, truly inspirational stuff and that’s what we want to be. For the most part that’s who we are and that was a courageous play, motivating play and I thought tonight he was our MVP, he was the bell-ringer tonight. That play is as good as it gets if you just wanted to snapshot how you want your team to be perceived. It speaks volumes on many levels.”
It does speak volumes. I mean, the most “Philly” guy on the roster is from Croatia, so go figure.
Brown was further asked if he feels like Saric is getting more respect around the league and from officials, too:
“He should be. I think in relation to, ‘Does that translate to more free throws?’ I don’t know, but what I do know is that he is such a significant part of this team. From a spirit standpoint as much as a positional and statistical standpoint, his spirit is pure and he loves basketball. He’s a great teammate and he’s just trending up, he’s just really getting better and so as the season winds down and people just pay attention and it really doesn’t require much more than that; then his reputation from the people that matter is for sure going up.”
Hard to argue with that.
Three points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, one steal, and one block in 14 minutes last night.
Fultz played the same role as he did on Monday, handling point guard duties with the second unit but shooting just 20% (1-5) on the evening.
He entered the game with 3:48 in the 1st quarter, playing in a group that looked like this:
- T.J. McConnell
- Marco Belinelli
- Ersan Ilyasova
- Richaun Holmes
Markelle’s first action was a big defensive swat on Trey Burke, a nicely timed slide and block at the rim:
Markelle Fultz can get *up* pic.twitter.com/7hmj6Wslvw
— Ben Harris (@byBenHarris) March 28, 2018
He then had some simple assists on long jumpers from Belinelli and Ilyasova before hitting his only shot of the game, a jaunt right down the slot for a smooth, pull-up 12-footer:
Again, that looks so simple, but no one else is doing that on this team. Covington and Redick aren’t doing that. Simmons CAN do it, but rarely shoots that shot. McConnell doesn’t necessarily try a lot of stuff from that area specifically, it’s usually inside the paint. Markelle’s ability to get to spots on the floor off the dribble is a welcome addition to this squad.
He went back to the bench with 8:54 in the second, then got a second shift starting at 3:52 in the third, playing in Brown’s smaller Ilyasova/Saric lineup:
- McConnell (quickly replaced with Covington)
He ripped off a pair of assists to Saric and Belinelli before driving to the rack and getting a foul call, sending him to the free throw line for the first time since October.
He hit one of two attempts:
Fultz goes 1-of-2 from the line. Still a bit of a hitch but a lot better than earlier this season. pic.twitter.com/dl7UM7V2Rn
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) March 29, 2018
Fultz spoke about the free throws and other topics after the game. His locker room availability was straightforward and smooth, no awkward silence and no dodging of questions, just simple stuff about the game itself and his performance. I honestly think he’s pretty good with the media. He was around plenty of reporters in college and it’s not like he’s uncomfortable up there. I just think the PR staff could have prepped him better on Monday night when the justifiable shoulder questions came up.
You can watch the whole thing here:
— Kevin Kinkead (@Kevin_Kinkead) March 29, 2018
The worst call of all time?
At the end of the first quarter I witnessed what I thought might be the worst offensive foul call of all time.
It was a Marco Belinelli three-point attempt, a shot he hit while falling backwards and out of bounds that the ref instead decided was illegal because of the ole’ Reggie Miller leg kick:
— FantasyPros (@FantasyPros) March 28, 2018
I mean, I don’t know. Is there really any reason to call anything there? Marco’s legs do kick out just slightly, but Luke Kornet is right on the edge of occupying the space where his motion begins, if you watch the video again.
If we’re being honest, I’m not sure why you’d feel the need to blow the whistle at all. Sometimes you have bang-bang plays like that where both players are in a gray area and you just let it go instead. Belinelli didn’t exactly flop, while Kornet slides a bit, but not in a dirty or deliberate type of way.
Knick fan fashion
Not sure what it is about Knicks fans, but they seem to care more about what they’re wearing to the game than the game itself. It’s like they see it as some social event instead of a basketball game, that typical New York and Los Angeles fake posturing and cosmopolitan crapola.
This guy below took off his zip-up throwback jacket to reveal a John Starks jersey, gold chain, and tribal tattoos to compliment a flat brim hat:
The jeans are acid washed with those little grooves on them, like that “motorcycle meets end of the world” vibe that Kanye West exhibited in his clothing line awhile back. It’s like something you’d wear if you were an extra in Mad Max: Fury Road.
This guy had the same exact jacket and a gold chain, along with ripped jeans:
I dunno, it’s just weird. The jewelry, the throwback items, the gym/tan/laundry “Jersey Shore” vibe, it’s all somewhat strange to me.
On the flip side, it’s not like Philly is Paris or Milan. Most local fans show up wearing a jersey over a sweatshirt with baggy dad jeans and/or plain white new balance sneakers. If you’re from Mayfair, you probably also have a Phillies tattoo on your calf. If you’re me, you walk around with an untucked shirt, looking like a slob.
Yea, we do have some guido types at Eagles and Sixers games, but you don’t really see a ton of New York or LA posturing going on.
But that’s because we’re a blue collar, “lunch pail” type of town, not a city of plastic poseurs.
(I’m allowed to say guido since I’m half-Italian.)