Raise your hand if you expected a reverberating “Corey Brewer” chant from the Wells Fargo Center crowd.
Yeah, me neither. But it happened shortly before halftime following a series of gritty hustle plays, at which point Joel Embiid ran the length of the court to block a James Harden layup into oblivion, and that was pretty much ball game. The Sixers never looked back en route to a 28-point win and sent the bench out for most of the fourth quarter.
They smushed a Rockets team missing Clint Capela and Chris Paul, but they did it without Jimmy Butler. So yeah, you need to put an asterisk on the win, but the Sixers weren’t exactly full strength either. There are plenty of asterisks to go around.
Still, you can only play the team in front of you, and they just obliterated what Houston put on the floor last night. James Harden got his points but was eventually yanked and held to his second lowest scoring output (37 pts) this month. The rest of the Rockets couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn as the Sixers looked engaged defensively and more than up to the task, ready to erase the crap taste of a tough Saturday loss and do it in front of a national TV audience.
They looked kind of nasty didn’t they? Kind of pest-like with some agitation from Brewer and T.J. McConnell and others. It looked like they wanted to be hard to play against. There are certainly worse ways to approach the game, and that type of stuff gets the crowd going, creates a strong atmosphere, and makes you really difficult to beat.
With Capela out of the lineup, they just didn’t have anyone to guard him. They tried the 36-year-old, 6’11” veteran Nene, who couldn’t handle Embiid. Then they tried 6’8″ Kenneth Faried, a power forward making his debut with a new team, just recently pulled off the Brooklyn bench.
To that end, Embiid did a really nice job last night of just pounding the paint, getting down on the blocks and taking advantage of those mismatches. He did it to the tune of 32 points on 9-16 shooting while only taking one three pointer the entire game. He was 14-17 from the foul line, added 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks, and only turned the ball over twice while finishing +21 on the evening.
Brett Brown on that:
Part of the whole game plan was to take Ben and Jo and play smash mouth basketball. We’ll go down low all day, every day. I thought we did a good job of doing it. You look at 56 points in the paint, you look at that fact and stat all by itself. We had an advantage, we had a difference maker, and we had something that we thought we wanted to tap into and I thought we did a pretty good job of doing that.
Imagine being Kenneth Faried and finally getting a chance to play basketball for the first time in a long time. You get an opportunity with the Rockets and your first assignment is Joel Embiid.
That’s not fair man, as you can see in the matchup chart below, where he drew Joel for 33% of Embiid’s offensive possessions:
You can’t understate how important Capela is to that Houston team, not just in the pick and roll game with Harden, but on the defensive side of the floor. They just aren’t the same when he’s unavailable.
Speaking of Harden, there were a couple of little dust ups with him last night as the Sixers looked to just irritate him and put him off his game.
You tell me if you see anything here. Any kind of kick from Embiid? –
Harden and Embiid got into it 👀 pic.twitter.com/0vNr0Kem7W
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 22, 2019
Looks like mostly nothing to me.
Joel downplayed it after the game:
“I was just walking back to my basket and I think he pushed my leg and naturally I’m gonna react. We both got technical fouls and we’ll move on, but there’s nothing going on there. To me, I’m just having fun. I’m always having fun and a lot of guys take me seriously, especially when it comes to that. We just had one guy the last game that was acting crazy. But it was fun to me, I love it.”
Zinger. Nice jab at Russell Westbrook there.
But yeah, Joel did everything he did in just 27 minutes last night. Run those numbers at a per-36 rate and you get MVP quality statistics.
Joel Embiid was the bell ringer, but Corey Brewer was the “spiritual bell ringer,” according to Brown.
Like Faried, he was tasked with a rather impossible defensive assignment, asked to guard Harden due to the absence of Jimmy Butler via wrist injury. Brewer had Harden on a little more than 25% of possessions last night, so while the Sixers threw different guys at him, Corey ended up taking him on 17 trips down the floor. Harden went 3-6 for 10 points and added 3 free throws on the sequences where he was matched up against Brewer, but the Sixers collectively held him to 37 points, which is a win when you consider the run of 40-point efforts he’s been putting up.
I just wanted to be aggressive and everything, you just got to make it tough. So I wanted to be in front of him, stay in front of him and make him shoot over the top because if he is not getting his teammates involved then we have a chance to win and that’s what happened tonight, he only had three assists and that’s a job well done.
You want to make him work for everything, try to get him tired, and not let other guys get involved. When he’s going to the basket, throwing into the corner and they’re making threes, that’s how they win games.
Brewer said he was playing “superheroes” with his kids as recently as a few weeks ago, so he was happy to play basketball again.
I asked him to recall the last time he’s had the entire arena chanting his name in unison:
Brewer: I have no idea. It’s happened a few times. I’ve been in the NBA for a while and had some good games. (laughs)
Crossing Broad: You know you’ve already reached cult hero status.
Brewer: It’s Philly man. They hate you or they love you, so I’m glad they’re on my side right now.
Doesn’t take much.
Dive for a loose ball, play tenacious defense, run into the outfield wall and break your nose, etc. Philly fans love a dude who’s going to bust their ass for the team, and he did that last night. Brewer will probably get another 10-day contract, and while he won’t have a long-term future in Philly, everybody is obviously gonna remember the “Corey Brewer vs. James Harden Game” at the Wells Fargo Center on Martin Luther King Day.
Ben Simmons had some good things to say about Brewer’s defensive mettle:
I think he was being a pest. His energy was great. Ever since he’s gotten with our team, I think he’s just been great. He’s been a good teammate, good person and we’ve loved having him around. He’s been tremendous.
Communication is always key when you’re playing defense and I think he’s one of those guys who’s always talking. He’s always positive, his energy level is always out there from what I’ve seen so far.
He showed a lot of energy on both sides of the floor. A couple of wild shots, sure, but he had that huge momentum builder of a transition dunk and just looked incredibly active out there.
Embiid was asked about the performance, and some people thought he was throwing shade with this quote, but I dunno:
Oh, Corey was great. You need that type of guy on the team. You know that’s what we’ve been trying to figure out, you know just learning how to play with each other. You need that type of guy that’s going to come out and be like, ‘Okay I’m going to take out the best player on the other team,’ and I felt like he did a pretty good job. I mean James had 37 on 26 shots, so I felt like he did a pretty good job tonight and you need that type of guy to go take one for the team and just fight, you know, do his best.
Is that a swipe at Simmons and Butler? You tell me.
- Faried got a technical for slapping the backboard following a dunk. Come on with that. Dude has been sitting on the Brooklyn bench all season, let him play the game.
- There was a sequence in the 2nd quarter where Harden fell down during an inbound. Brewer stood over him face guarding, Harden got up and shoved him, and the refs didn’t see it. But cameras got the whole ridiculous sequence:
Corey Brewer pulling out all the stops to guard Harden 😂 pic.twitter.com/gSmZHNxhYE
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 22, 2019
- Some poor dude was puking his guts out at halftime in the media bathroom. Sounded horrible. I wish I could describe the sound. It was like something out of the exorcist, like he was trying to expel a demon from his body.
- Philly blocked 14 shots, one shy of a season-high 15 blocks set on Nov. 9th against Charlotte.
- Landry Shamet had a nice game off the bench. 18 points on 7-13 shooting, some of it in garbage time, but still.
- The Sixers are now 10-2 in games where Kendall Jenner is in attendance. Investor Jeff made the point that she showed up last night despite the temperature being something like negative a million degrees, so it wasn’t exactly sunny Southern California in the Delaware Valley. She might be more of a blue collar, lunch pail type of gal than we originally thought. We might need to film an entire season of Keeping up with the Kardashians in Fishtown.