After Friday night’s hypertension-inducing instant classic, things were back to normal on Sunday, with the Sixers pulverizing a lesser squad into dust en route to a 14th straight victory and their first 50-win season since 2001, when Allen Iverson led your team, your town all the way to the NBA finals.
You’d have to go way back to the 1989-90 season to find the next most recent 50-win campaign, a year when Charles Barkley and Hersey Hawkins were the team’s leading scorers. This franchise has only reached the 50 win plateau three times since the halcyon days of Dr. J and the late Moses Malone.
These Sixers are in elite company, a young group of overachievers who did two things that stood out to head coach Brett Brown more than anything else this season – playing good defense and sharing the basketball.
Brett post game:
“There is a toughness in our group. I think that there is a defensive purpose to our group. We’re going to play fast, we hope we make our threes, but I think that there are two things; I think that there is a defensive belief that nothing else matters unless we guard and we have that sung, I’ve tried to sing it since I’ve been here and we’ve continued to sing it. I think that they hear it, I think that they hear it loudly, the voices that I hear in the locker room and on the bench confirm that it’s deeper than just my voice. And I think that anytime you have a team that regularly bangs out 30-plus assist games, again we had 32 tonight. That in itself is a statement of sharing and caring and we pass the ball. We really pass the ball and if you can have that defensive disposition and an offensive identity that is selfless then you’ve got a chance to move along in good ways.”
They certainly have a chance to move along “in good ways.” They already moved along to the playoffs with home court advantage for the first time in a long time.
There’s not a ton to analyze from a sleepy, yet rather straightforward win against a dire Dallas Mavericks team, but here are a few things that stood out in the matinee:
T.J. and Markelle
Markelle Fultz got an extended run on Sunday with an early first quarter appearance off the bench. In recent games, T.J. McConnell had been making regular substitutions off the pine, with the pair also sharing some minutes as a 1/2 combination, similar to the Ben Simmons/McConnell groupings we’ve seen in the past.
T.J. remained on the bench until garbage time, with Brown putting Fultz back in the game late in the second quarter despite the point guard carrying three personal fouls. He got his fourth in the third quarter after a bad turnover, committing a clear path foul that allowed Dallas to cut the lead to four. Ersan Ilyasova scored the next five points and grabbed a defensive rebound to reopen the wound and essentially put Dallas away for good.
Fultz finished with 8 points on 4-11 shooting in 21 minutes, adding 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and committing two turnovers. It was only the second he played more than 20 minutes since returning to the lineup and the first time this season that McConnell did not play at all in the first half.
Brown said the thought process was about “giving Markelle more minutes” –
“I want to test Markelle Fultz, and if I give him more minutes, it’s going to come at the expense of T.J. And it did. It got deep into where T.J. came off the bench late, a little bit later than I had hoped. But the purpose was to test Markelle and give him more minutes.”
“I thought Markelle was okay tonight. He was okay tonight. But you’ve got two games left and you want to make sure you feel good about what you want to get done in a playoff rotation type of situation that remains still a bit of a mystery to us, as it should. He hasn’t played, as we all know, much NBA basketball. So tonight, here at home, playing against Dallas, we felt like if we played defense that we were going to be in good shape, and I decided to rotate the team for those reasons.”
There ya go. Nothing crazy there.
These are the minutes Fultz has played since returning to the lineup:
And T.J.’s minutes dating back a few weeks:
T.J.’s minutes have steadily declined in 2018, from 25.1 in January, to 24.2 in February and 18.8 in March. He’s played 14.3 per game in April, as you can see above.
I think it is what it is with T.J. and Markelle. One guy is a scrappy hustler, a process-product and fan favorite. The other is the #1 overall draft pick. It’ll be interesting to see what T.J.’s role ends up being next year when the Sixers bring in another superstar free agent and Fultz rolls into his sophomore campaign.
Nine points on 4-10 shooting. Just 1-5 from three.
He’s not himself, yet, after returning from the elbow issue that kept him out for three games.
One thing I noticed is that he wasn’t wearing the elbow sleeve that he used during the Cleveland game, a contest where he finished 1-9 from the field. This time around, he just had a bandage on the healing right elbow.
I don’t know how much that affects his shooting, or if he’s just a bit rusty after missing some games, but he’ll get two more opportunities in the regular season to find his form as we head into the playoffs.
This Simmons pass
We’re building up a highlight-reel consisting strictly of amazing Ben Simmons passes that his teammates can’t finish at the rim.
— John Barchard (@JohnBarchard) April 8, 2018
A few more random notes:
- Robert Covington had two more blocks and two more steals in this game. He now has 10 blocks and 19 steals in his last five.
- JJ Redick continues to shoot the lights out, leading the Sixers with 18 in this one. He’s averaging 23 PPG in April, well above his 16.9 season average.
- Marco Belinelli continues to play well but went 0-3 from three. There will come a time in the playoffs when he goes cold but hauls up an off-balance shot that will draw fan ire akin to the early season Redick criticism.
- Ilyasova has very quietly come up with some key offensive rebounds in the past few games. He had 3 on Sunday, 4 on Friday, and 5 in Detroit.