Jimmy Butler’s home debut did not disappoint.

Hell of a game last night, featuring a jacked-up crowd, big buckets from both squads, and a nice 4th quarter turnaround for your team, your town, your 76ers.

It looked like they were headed for another disappointing collapse after opening with a 14-point 1st quarter lead, but Brett Brown’s team executed when it mattered, going on a 8-2 run over the final two minutes to claim a six-point win.

Jimmy Butler scored on a key sideline out of bounds play to put the game away. Ben Simmons, who did not have his best night, got a tough bucket at the rim just one possession prior.

Let’s start with that, because there was a point in the third quarter where Simmons had a line of 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists, aka 666, the number of the beast. He’s been a little slow to figure out how to connect the dots as the point guard with Butler now in the starting lineup.

Simmons turned the ball over at the 1:45 mark in the 4th quarter with a lazy pass as Ricky Rubio overplayed a JJ Redick dribble-handoff. Jae Crowder was able to get a layup to fall on the other end to put the Jazz up two. Rubio tried the same overplay on the next possession, but fouled Redick and the Sixers tied the game on a pair of foul shots.

Even after the sloppy execution, Brown showed trust by going to Simmons again on the very next possession, bringing Redick off the baseline as a screener and resulting in this:

Ben Simmons hitting a clutch shot over Donovan Mitchell? You can’t write a more fitting script.

The Sixers came back down the floor and tried the very same set on the next possession, that sort of inverted pick and roll with Redick setting the screen, and Utah was able to knock the ball out of bounds.

That setup a sideline out of bounds play where Simmons was able to find Butler at the rack for the basket that would put the game away:

Just great stuff there, a bang-bang play for a guy who had only been with the team for 72 hours. You can see Embiid doesn’t screen for Butler but comes across the arc towards Redick instead.

Here’s what Ben Simmons said about his connection with Butler on that play:

“He knows how to play the game at a high level, his IQ is very high. He’s the kind of guy where, the inbounds play where I threw it to him, that was going to happen before I even threw it, just because I looked at him. Some guys you can just look at and you already know what’s going to happen before it happens.”

Great quote. Here’s Butler on the same play:

“I tell him before every game, I think I’m a wide receiver. So if you throw the ball up in the air, I’ll probably Antonio Brown it. Except I won’t take off running with the ball cause it’s a travel. But I’ll definitely catch it and he gave me one of those (looks) and put the ball in there.”

Nice to see chemistry between two guys playing just their second game together.

Butler finished with a team-high 28 points while adding 7 rebounds and 3 assists. He shot an incredible 80% on the evening, hitting 12 of 15 field goals and 2 of 3 three pointers. He was 2 for 5 from the foul line.

He looked more assertive out there, for sure, and Brett Brown said he could have even tried more shots.

“I actually thought he could’ve, if he chose too, shot about seven or six more shots,” the head coach said. “You know, we put him in some stuff and you could see, like he’s trying to walk that line of taking control and being proactive versus passing the ball and getting other people involved. I can only imagine the interesting dynamic he feels coming to Philadelphia and playing in front of a Philadelphia crowd for the first time.”

Yep, they did “put him in some stuff.” They tried that three-man flare and double screen again, which was used in Orlando on Wednesday. They used him in an “elbow” look with Amir Johnson before halftime, which is the bread and butter Redick and Joel Embiid handoff play. They got him on the SLOB bucket at the end of the game.

It was a message Butler heard from his new head coach:

“I came out gunning, I can tell you that. They just told me to be me. Coach Brown called me last night, like, ‘Hey, I remember one time you were in this building and you scored 50,’ and he was like, ‘Do that.’ I was like, ‘OK.’ Then when we got in the little walkthrough this morning, he was like, ‘You remember what I told you?’ I go, ‘Yep.’ ‘Do that.’ And I was like, ‘OK.’ So I came out a little more aggressive.”

High-quality home debut from Jimmy Butler. That’s why you made the trade for him, for big buckets against good teams.

Markelle’s new form

Playing his second-consecutive game as the second unit point guard, Markelle Fultz finished with six points, three rebounds, and two assists in about 15 minutes of play.

He nailed a smooth-looking foul line jumper to start things off, and when he got to the foul line for the first time, we saw a new routine:

That shot went in. The next one didn’t.

He hit two of four free throws on the night and it still looks like he’s really over-thinking his mechanics when he gets there.

The hot potato routine looks funky, and Crowder gave a reaction that I think a lot of us in the crowd gave:

Markelle also had a couple of “big boy” moments with Donovan Mitchell getting up in his grill in the early part of the second quarter. There was a touch of shakiness there, but I didn’t think he looked overmatched or out of his depth, I think Mitchell just did a nice job of disrupting the offensive flow with some aggressive perimeter play against Fultz. It reminded me of the first game of last season, when Patrick Beverly was playing super-tight on Lonzo Ball as a “Welcome to the NBA” type of thing.

We’ll see if Markelle gets to the line tonight and does the same thing with his shot.

Joel’s hand and minutes

23 and 7 for Joel last night in just 26 minutes of play.

He was sidelined for the entirety of the third quarter due to foul trouble and also banged his hand again, the same one was giving him issues during the early part of last season. After the game, he said the hand was swollen but affirmed he would play tonight in Charlotte.

“It goes back to the game against the Suns last year in Phoenix,” Embiid said. “I dealt with that, but it’s been on and off. But we take care of it, I get treatment every day to make sure that the swelling (doesn’t) come back. But at the beginning of the game today, it was pretty bad, especially for the rest of the game.”

Hmm, really? That was a long time ago.. How could he still be dealing with a hand issue that first popped up 11 months ago?

Anyway, here’s Brett Brown’s thinking on keeping Embiid out the entirety of the third quarter:

“It comes with pain, I will tell you that. I have learned that you’re not going to lose a game in the third period, I don’t believe. If the game starts to sail out, I can revisit it. My intention the whole period was I hope I can sit him the whole period. We talked about (him) maybe coming in toward the end of the third, and I think it’s overrated. I think if he gets a quick foul, I’m back to where I started so we just needed to buy time.”

I can understand that. The other side of the coin is trusting your guy to play a disciplined game and keep himself out of trouble. Embiid took a technical after arguing a call earlier in the game, so maybe Brown was thinking that it was just safer to keep Joel on the bench until he really needed him.

Other notes:

  • There was a basket interference call in the first half that drew intense boos and a wild reaction from Brett Brown. The ball is not sitting on the rim in this still shot:

  • Furkan Korkmaz was the victim of a horrible foul call in the 1st quarter, when he basically just put his arms straight up in the air and got whistled anyway. It was a ghastly call.
  • Amir Johnson made two three pointers last night and finished with 11 and 5, but he was still a -12 on the night. Mike Muscala went for 9 and 4 and was a -7. I still feel like backup big is an issue on this team, and the lineups with both of those guys on the floor seem to have trouble scoring the basketball.
  • The Sixers only shot 62.5% from the foul line last night. They really could have helped themselves by getting that number up. They are hitting at 77% this season, so last night was a pretty dreadful performance in that department.

And last, but not least, Jimmy taking a shot at Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns in his post game interview with Serena Winters:

Enjoy your weekend.