The clock showed 1:24 remaining in the fourth quarter with the Sixers clinging to a one-point lead against the Orlando Magic.

A brilliant defensive possession saw Joel Embiid deflect a pass beyond half court, with Terrence Ross collecting the loose ball some 50 feet from the basket. As JJ Redick stepped up to close the distance, Ross pulled up from 42 feet and let go of a three point attempt that found nothing but net on the way down, giving his team a 112-110 lead.

“When I turned around to look at the ball I knew it was going in,” said Redick of the long-range heave. “I just knew from the path of the ball. I knew it was going in. It was a sick feeling.”

It was an eye-roller of a sequence in a game that should have never been close in the first place. But the first-quarter injury exit of Ben Simmons tested the Sixers’ already thin-depth, with a scrappy Orlando team hanging tough and keeping the game close throughout the second half.

Head coach Brett Brown suggested that a shred of doubt might have creeped in when he watched the Ross shot go down.

“Sometimes that’s the hoop God. Maybe it isn’t your night some nights,” he said. “To the guys’ credit, we found a way to win. Normally when you’re looking at those types of games you come into it and you’re like ‘jeez, we’ve got 20 turnovers or whatever,’ and we didn’t (in this game). I think (Orlando’s) ability to make threes, our inability to get to the foul line, those types of things I feel like are most on my mind. I look forward to seeing their threes. That’s a big number of threes to make.”

Orlando shot 55% from deep last night, hitting on 16 of 29 attempts, the Ross prayer included.

Fortunately, the biggest three of the night went to Philadelphia, a 27-foot game-winner that Redick knocked down after a clinical bit of two-man action with Joel Embiid on the perimeter. The pair combined for 63 of the Sixers’ 116 points and saved their best for last, executing on a bread and butter play that they’ve run so many times before to perfection:

Said Redick of the play:

“Yeah, it was our elbow action, they overplayed the dribble hand off. On the initial action, Joel has the option to dribble to ball in the post, or you know, play rifle, or re-handoff with me. I thought for him, in that play, it doesn’t matter to me how he decides to do whatever, but I just thought he showed a lot of poise in sort of reading the situation and coming back my way. But yeah, that was the design.”

It’s true, he did show a ton of poise on the play.

I remember very specifically, and you probably do as well, when they tried to run this same design against Boston and had a miscommunication that resulted in Embiid literally dumping the ball out of bounds instead.

I asked Embiid about his chemistry with Redick in that two-man action, if it was about “feeling” his way through the play:

“It is a feel. I was pissed (against Boston) because we usually understand each other and I love him. I love playing with him. I told him the other day that he was the best player that I’ve ever played with, just because we understand each other so well. I’m able to get him open and I especially like when he comes and we’re sharing the ball. I know when I set the screen or hand it off I’m going to be happy with the outcome. So I was saying the other day that I wish he was 24 years old so that we could be here for 10 or 15 years, but he’s old as shit, so he won’t be here that long.”

If Redick is “old as shit” at age 34, and I’m also age 34, am I also old as shit? Not sure, but I certainly feel like it now.

Anyway, Joel has really improved with that hand-off play, knowing when to hold, when to dish it off, and when to dribble down into the post.

Look at the defensive overplay here, just before Redick’s cut and counter:

Both defenders try to prevent that dump off, and with Embiid picking up his dribble, he smartly waits for Redick to make his cut, then puts a body on Ross to free up enough space for a shot.

“That’s something where I think I’ve grown a lot,” said Embiid. “I’m so happy for myself, I had zero turnovers, that was exciting. But like you said, it’s just a feel. We understand each other. I kind of have been able to, just playing last year with him, that this year I feel more comfortable. I’m starting to figure out my spots on the basketball court, and he helps me a lot just with if they top lock him, I know where to pass the ball and I’m just reading his eyes and his movement and it’s easier.”

One more quote on this design from Brett Brown:

“Most of that action we’re talking about is done with our three best players, by design. We play different looks out of that and we stack on the second side of the floor and get sneaky stuff from time to time on that other side of the floor with two shooters on it, normally Cov and Dario. I think that the attention that JJ gets and the overplaying and people trying to grab and you’re in the bonus, you know he drew fouls and got some cheap free throws just because of that similar type of attention. You have a tendency to overplay stuff and the whole court is empty. You can come get it, you can go backdoor out of it, you can be used in a pick and roll. Space and attention equals some of those open looks.”

That’s a lot of quotes for a recap, but we got did get lot of solid and interesting stuff last night.

I honestly think the reason for that is because fewer media people showed up. Thursday night’s season opener was a shit show, a national broadcast with all sorts of TV and radio people in tow. You couldn’t even move in the locker room because there were so many people. Last night was a smaller weekend contingent, more of the “regulars,” which led to more open dialogue and fewer people just trying to shout their questions over each other.

Markelle Fultz

Eight points on 4-11 shooting and a good chunk of minutes running the point in place of Ben Simmons.

He only hit one jumper on the night, and again it came off an Embiid screen for a pull-up right on the foul line:

That’s his spot right now. That’s where he’s most comfortable stepping into a pull-up jumper.

Did anything else impress you about Fultz?

I honestly didn’t see a ton from him last night. He did finish with seven assists and four rebounds while only committing one turnover, but he got himself into foul trouble with a couple of cheapies in the second half.

T.J. McConnell played point guard to finish out the game because Brett Brown trusted his experience.


“You get to a stage going into the fourth like ‘how are you going to sub that, how are you going to play that out’ and so immediately I probably shrunk it down to that type of rotation. You saw, you try to manipulate it where you can get Joel [Embiid] a good rest and JJ [Redick] a rest but then end back with that group, and Markelle [Fultz] was a part of that. Then T.J. coming back in, that was my plan for that reason.”

I don’t read too much into that. Some people think it says a lot about Brown’s view of Fultz, but if Simmons was healthy, then this isn’t a topic at all.

Fox Sports Florida

They shoved a camera crew right in front of our faces to do some kind of segment with their color commentator using a slinky. I have no idea what was going on, but I couldn’t see a damn thing for a good 4-5 minutes of the second quarter because they had a huge light to my left and a camera to my right:

Sorry for the vertical video; I think Chris shot it on his iphone or something and I couldn’t rotate it. These Apple people, you know? Just get an Android phone.

Other notes:

  • We’ll get more info on Ben Simmons later, but it was “lower back tightness” and Brown did not think it was serious. Simmons was limited at a practice sometime last week with a neck issue that apparently doesn’t have anything to do with this.
  • Simmons’ injury allowed Furkan Korkmaz to get first-half minutes for the first time this season. Landry Shamet played 21 minutes and went 0-4 on the night.
  • There was a weird sequence in the first quarter when Nik Vucevic lost his mouth piece on the offensive end of the floor, then appeared to be slow getting down the floor after picking it up off the ground. Joel Embiid went right down the floor for an easy dunk.
  • Marc Zumoff accidentally called Serena Winters “Molly” during an early cut-in. I’m not surprised that muscle memory kicked in there after multiple seasons working with Molly Sullivan. I still want to say “San Diego Chargers” even though they haven’t played there for a full year.
  • The arena DJ played Raekwon’s “Ice Cream” for the first time last night. I think the Sixers scored on that possession, so it’s clear that we need more Wu Tang at the Center
  • Redick was obviously the Sixers’ bell ringer. Brown: “I thought Joel was exceptional as well, but we needed every bit of JJ Redick tonight to find a way to get out of this building with a win.”