I don’t have an interesting lede to start this one off.

The Sixers came out flat on a Monday night, picked it up in the third quarter, then put away a rebuilding team featuring a pair of rookies in the starting lineup.

You could feel it in the building; it was sleepy, almost like a combined hangover from Saturday night’s thriller against Charlotte and Sunday’s Eagle ass-kicking. It just took Brett Brown’s team a little while to get the gears grinding.

Nice performance, though. They turned the ball over 19 times, which wasn’t great, but erased a chunk of those lost possessions with 21 second chance points off of 13 offensive rebounds. They also got to the foul line early and often, hitting 31 of 42 tries from the stripe. The Sixers put up 119 points with just 84 field goal attempts, while Phoenix scored 114 on 87.

That’s the formula when you’re a little slow and a little sloppy and not shooting the ball particularly well. Hit the glass, get to the foul line, and flip the script in other departments instead. That’s why the Sixers remain unbeaten at home this season.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of an otherwise routine November game was the fact that Brett Brown adjusted his rotation last night, which was the product of Wilson Chandler playing a season-high 31 minutes, even when the Sixers’ medical staff had advised Brown to use him for about 27 last night. This allowed Chandler to eat up some staggered second unit power forward minutes, with Brown putting Mike Muscala at center, where he thrived. Muscala scored a season-high 19 points and shot 9-11 from the free throw line while grabbing three offensive rebounds. Amir Johnson only played six minutes off the bench while Markelle Fultz was limited to seven as Brown preferred T.J. McConnell to run point with the second unit.

Here’s Brown on that:

“It’s hard winning in the NBA; it’s hard winning in the NBA. I thought that we were flat, I think that that was my motivation to go with T.J. and whatever reason, at times that happens. We’re nine and zero at home, but I thought the first half was flat. I thought we came out at halftime doing decent things. They’re talented and young, they don’t know what they don’t know and they just play. Booker’s good. I thought by and large, the first half was flat, we needed an injection, I came in with T.J. Shuffled the lineup a little bit. Glad to get out of here with a win.”

There were a couple of follow-ups regarding Fultz, McConnell, and the rotation. Brett didn’t have a ton to say, but this was his response when asked if he’d continue with T.J. as the second unit point guard moving forward:

Brown: “I don’t know. I don’t know.

Keith Pompey: What’s going to be the determining factor?

Brown: “Just when I think it through deeper and look at tape and see who we’re playing, the next opponent, all of those things that I should do.”

David Murphy: How big of a variation is Markelle’s development when thinking about this move?

Brown: “It is a piece of it. How big of a piece, I don’t know. I hear your question. The responsibility to grow him, the responsibility to coach a team to win, it’s all on the table. And it’s part of what I weigh out. We’ll make a decision on what that looks like, but it certainly is part of it.”

That was pretty much it. Of course they could have just been showcasing T.J. McConnell as a possible trade piece, so there’s that. Fultz didn’t do much of anything in a brief seven minutes of action last night. I personally think it’s fine to let him continue to develop as a second-unit point guard, since McConnell has already reached his NBA ceiling. That said, you see how T.J. gives them some energy off the bench in a way that Markelle does not.

Mike Moose-scala

I like him at the five, which is where he played predominantly last year in Atlanta backing up Dewayne Dedmon. His ability to stretch the floor and be a three-point threat while also going inside and getting some tough rebounds and earning fouls is something that Amir just doesn’t give you. It’s no coincidence that Muscala had his best game of the season last night playing in a different role.

Brett on Moose:

Mike was our bell ringer tonight. The energy that he had going to the offensive boards, in my opinion, when I study this stat sheet, the game was won because of our offensive rebounding. We turned the ball over, but we recouped some of those possessions because we got second-chance points. I think we had 21 second-chance points. Mike was instrumental at making efforts going to the boards a few times he got fouled, a few times he got ‘em. He was able, like you said, to stretch the floor and make a three. But, yes, I decided to go with Mike instead of Amir in the second half and I thought that he did a good job.

Here’s an example of that different wrinkle last night, with Wilson Chandler playing power forward in a lineup that also included Landry Shamet, Jimmy Butler, and Ben Simmons:

Richaun Holmes is digging at Chandler there and then throws the double team, easy kick out to Muscala for the three.

It’s something to think about. As Chandler gets closer to 36 minutes healthy, staggering the rotation to put him on the floor gives you the flexibility to do things like this while limiting the necessity to rely on 15-20 minutes from Amir off the bench. I really think they should be looking for another power forward to flesh out this roster, which alleviates the problem of having to play Muscala and Amir as a 4/5 combo, because it just isn’t getting you enough offensively.

Spirit plays

Is it just me, or does Joel Embiid miss a dunk in every game or every other game?

He went for a wild windmill attempt last night:


The building might have caved in had that he converted that. At the end of the day, it really didn’t matter, but those are two easy points, right? So I asked Brown after the game if those types of plays bother him.

Brett: “Yeah”

Of course they would bother him, so I followed up by asking him about the risk vs. reward of trying something like that to energize the crowd and get the team going, vs. just going for the fundamental two-handed flush instead:

“I hear your point, and this is this balance of, you want fundamentals and you want efficient play. You want to make good passes. You want all of that. And then at times there is a spirit play. There is a swagger play that is part of our league and it’s part of their growth. And it gets the crowd going. If that goes in, things pivot. How about just T.J., you know, and his way he can change a game? So my response is, I wish that he’d made it.”

At that point in the game, with the team a little listless to start it off, I really do not have any problem with Joel trying something like that. Basketball is a game of runs and spurts and momentum shifts, and if you land a big “swagger play” like that one, it can really have a huge impact. Think about the block and four-point play before halftime, right? That was another key one.

No real issue with the windmill, though I can understand why others might be annoyed.

Other notes:

  • Really nice pop for Mikal Bridges when the starters were announced. This was only his third start of the season and he hit a couple of late buckets to make it interesting. He’s gonna have to stay out of foul trouble as he continues to develop into a legit NBA player.
  • Holmes got a nice shout too when came off the bench at the eight minute mark of the first quarter.
  • TJ McConnell got the second loudest ovation of the night, just behind Allen Iverson in terms of the decibel level.
  • JJ Redick finished with 17 points, a bloody nose, and a brutal elbow to the face from Embiid. Rough one for him.
  • 19, 11, and 9 for Ben Simmons, who really attacked the basket last night. He tried 13 field goals at or near the rim and while he got to the line 6 times, he only made one free throw.
  • A relatively quiet night for Jimmy Butler after Saturday’s heroics. He went 4-9 from the floor but nailed all eight free throws to finish with 16 points.
  • Joel Embiid: 33 points, 17 rebounds, 9-12 from the line. Those are ridiculous numbers.

And finally: