The Sixers did a really nice job honoring Kobe Bryant Tuesday night,
It started with public address announcer Matt Cord reading off the names of the nine people killed in Sunday’s helicopter crash. That was followed by a Kobe highlight reel on the jumbotron and 33 second moment of silence, symbolic of the number he wore at Lower Merion High School. Afterward, the Sixers bell rang nine times, once for each victim, then they showed Bryant’s on-court introduction from his final Philadelphia game dating back to his retirement year. The national anthem was played on the saxophone, a beautiful rendition that took us to tip off.
Tasteful and appropriate is how I’d describe the tribute. Both teams then honored Kobe on the court, first with the Sixers taking an eight second violation, followed by a 24-second shot clock whistle on the other end, two more symbolic numbers representing the digits Bryant wore in the NBA.
Here’s the tribute, which is worth watching in it’s entirety:
The entire tribute ceremony from Wells Fargo Center tonight. pic.twitter.com/4TntlqmthK
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 29, 2020
Joel Embiid’s return
With his hand wrapped, tape joining his middle and ring fingers, Joel Embiid went for 24 points while wearing the #24 jersey, in honor of Kobe Bryant.
That’s a number belonging to Bobby Jones and retired by the Sixers, but Embiid spoke with Jones on the phone Tuesday morning and asked for permission to use the number to honor Kobe.
Here’s Joel on that:
Here's Joel Embiid on Bobby Jones allowing him to wear his retired #24 number to honor Kobe Bryant: pic.twitter.com/Wa2bFs3FZF
— Kevin Kinkead (@Kevin_Kinkead) January 29, 2020
Embiid said wearing #24 was a one-time thing only and that the number will go back into retirement.
This was a good return game for Joel after missing nine straight with the dislocated finger, playing at home against a depleted Warriors squad without much interior presence. He hit seven of his nine field goals in the paint and pulled down 10 rebounds while spending most of his time defended by Marquese Chriss and Omari Spellman, two guys that he has a clear size advantage over. Aside from five turnovers and the understandable rust, he looked pretty good out there, and the tape did not seem to affect his guide hand or rebounding ability.
Embiid also explained what happened on the shot that brought him to 24 points, a baseline fadeaway that took place midway through the fourth quarter:
That was cool. I didn’t know it was actually 24 points as I shot that fade-away. That was what he was about. I actually yelled “Kobe.” A lot of us, since I started playing basketball, that’s how we’ve always done it. You shoot something in the trash and you just go “Kobe,” so that was cool. For that to be the 24th point and me wearing 24 means a lot.
Symbolism, yeah? Everybody loves a symbolic story.
Raul Neto, volume scorer
Big night for backup point guard Raul Neto, who poured in 19 points in 21 minutes off the bench.
He played a significant stretch of second quarter minutes, and was even supposed to come out of the game, but Ben Simmons signaled to the coaching staff to let Neto stay on the floor and ride the hot hand.
Brett Brown explains that:
“As it was communicated to me, I”m getting ready to have Ben come back in, and to Ben’s credit as a teammate, he sort of passed on down the bench to one of my assistants, ‘let’s let him keep going.’ And I said that’s an interesting, selfless instruction. So we did, and he (Raul) rewarded us. What, did he have 19 first half points? It’s not something that you normally do, let Ben sit there. But Raul had played so well, we decided to roll with it. He certainly justified, with his performance, that decision.”
Neto said postgame he was trying to stay aggressive during his time on the floor, noting that Golden State was going under screens and giving him room to maneuver.
“Everything opened up,” he said. “They started switching and then I had Joel or Al (Horford) open and the ball just started moving. Not only the way I scored, but the way we played and moved the ball in the second quarter, it was great.”
Neto also had a unique take on Kobe Bryant, having played against him in Kobe’s finale, which was the 60-point game dating back to 2016. Here’s what Raul said about that:
Raul Neto played against Kobe Bryant in his final NBA game. Here's what he said about that, and Bryant's level of competitiveness: pic.twitter.com/miGQjMxXNR
— Kevin Kinkead (@Kevin_Kinkead) January 29, 2020
Ben Simmons, space, and aggression
Ben didn’t play a lot of minutes because of Neto’s fantastic second quarter, requesting that his teammate stay in the game and continue to roll. And that’s perfectly fine, because Ben has been logging 40 minute games on a nightly basis and could use a bit of a breather in the form of solid regular season play behind him.
Of course, Ben’s numbers were a bit down with Embiid back on the floor, as more of the play was going through the Sixers’ center. You didn’t see the small ball five that Philadelphia used in recent games, with Simmons eating up space in the paint and having four other guys surrounding him.
The Embiid/Simmons spacing issue did pop up at times last night. most notably here when a Simmons and Shake Milton pick and roll resulted in Ben pulling up right in front of the nail but deciding not to shoot, instead throwing a short pass to Embiid, who got fouled:
You heard grumbling and bitching in the crowd after that play, and you’re always going to have sequences like that when Ben and Joel play together.
But to Ben’s credit, he really turned it on after that point. He was more aggressive, attacked the rim, got downhill, and put himself into double figures by the end of the third quarter. He only shot 4-11 from the floor put made nine of 10 free throws, which was quite easily his best contribution and a good sign perhaps going forward, that 90% mark from the stripe.
- D’Angelo Russell looks like Tyrone Garland with that hair style (shout out to my mom and to cousin Bern).
- Shake Milton shot 5-6 and did not look out of place at all in his second-straight start.
- 50-38 advantage for the Sixers in points in the paint, plus 32 three point attempts = balanced numbers they should be able to hit every night against lesser NBA squads.
- 26 free throws (made 20) is where the Sixers can be night-in and night-out. Especially against a team like GSW, they should be able to get to the line at will.
- DJ Ghost played some Three 6 Mafia during a Sixers possession. They missed the shot, but it was great to hear a decent song over the loudspeakers for once. Here it is: