Game Recap | Homestand Ends With Perfect Record
There shouldn’t be any statistic or other type of metric needed to tell you how important (in alphabetical order) Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid, JJ Redick, and Ben Simmons are to the 76ers (17-8).
But we’ll give you one anyway.
Sunday, in a tight, at times choppy, battle with the Memphis Grizzlies (13-9) at The Center, the core quartet combined for 79 points (77 percent) in the Sixers’ grind-it-out 103-95 victory.
Thanks to the win, the Sixers capped their latest three-game homestand with a perfect record. The triumph was the team’s fourth in a row, NBA-best 13th at home, and 17th overall.
That last figure is currently good for second-most in the league, trailing only Toronto’s win total (20). The Raptors, as timing has it, are the next up on the schedule.
Redick led the way with 24 points, while Butler, Simmons, and Embiid accounted for 21, 19, and 15 points, respectively.
Most significant, however, was that those numbers carried real weight. The group was responsible for scoring the Sixers’ final 19 points of regulation.
“The versatility that we have, especially with that starting group...that’s what you need to win in the league,” Brett Brown said on a night the Sixers were without regular starting four-man Wilson Chandler (Mike Muscala filled in).
“The variety that we scored in at the end was helpful.”
In particular, Butler and Redick punched in the Sixers’ last 11 points, with Butler burying a deep, clutch jumper from the wing to make it 97-89 with 49 seconds left.
The Sixers’ next trip down the floor, it was Redick’s turn to supply a timely basket. He zoomed in for an uncontested lay-up off a sideline out-of-bounds play for pivotal insurance, at 99-93.
As vital as Butler, Embiid, Redick, and Simmons were to Sunday’s outcome, T.J. McConnell was critical as well.
The back-up guard logged 30 minutes, and closed the contest out with the Butler-Embiid-Redick-Simmons combo. He was a team-best plus-14, with six points, three rebounds, and two assists.
From the opening tip against Memphis, Simmons was ready to go. He tallied each of the Sixers’ first three field goals, all of which came on deep drives into the paint.
With Simmons leading a strong interior charge, the Sixers went about building a 10-point halftime advantage, 54-44, by playing from the inside out. At that stage, they had scored 28 points in the paint, 12 from the free throw line, and another 12 from 3-point territory.
On the defensive end, the Grizzlies’ 44 first-half points were the lowest for a Sixers opponent this season. And by the end of the evening, the surging Sixers had surrendered fewer than 100 points for a third consecutive tilt.
It was another complete victory.
“I think we’re just getting better offensively and defensively,” said Simmons.
The proof has been in the Sixers’ success.
Click here for a complete box score.
An Encouraging First 25
Twenty-five is kind of a nice, round number.
So why don’t we take a moment to briefly conduct inventory of where the Sixers are now, compared to where they’ve been in previous campaigns at this same juncture of the season.
For starters, 25 games into 2018-19, the team is four wins better than it was this time a year ago (13-12 in 2017-18).
Looking back through franchise history, this fall marks the 16th time the Sixers have posted at least 17 victories through 25 games, and first time since 2011-2012.
Prior to this season, there had been only three instances in the last 32 years that the Sixers registered at least 17 wins in their first 25 games. They started 18-7 in 2000-01 and 2011-12, and 17-8 in 2000-01.
“I don’t even look at our record, I really don’t,” said Brett Brown, who estimates he checks the standings about once a week. "At this stage, for me personally, it’s a good feel on how is your team playing.”
As for their 13-1 mark at The Center, the Sixers haven’t been this good at home to open a season since the beginning of their 1966-67 championship run. They year, they rolled to 14 home wins at the outset of the season.
“I know when we’re playing well and when we’re not,” Brown said. “It’s always the performance, and the spirit of the time that I most pay attention to.”
Here’s a look at Ben Simmons’ shot chart from Sunday’s win. Pretty telling, yeah?
Simmons finished last season fourth in the entire NBA in points scored in the paint (12.7 ppg). Following Sunday’s game, he ranked ninth in that category, while averaging right around the same number (12.7 ppg).
But for as much as it’s worth noting where on the court Simmons scored against Memphis, so too is it important to highlight his demeanor. It was one of those nights that he just projected an aura of, I’m going to do whatever I want to do, and we both know it.
As outlined earlier in this article, his start to Sunday’s game was especially spirited, and seemed to rub off on the rest of the roster.
“I feel like I’ve always been the type of person to want to lead so I don’t think that’s new to me, or being in a situation where I have to be more vocal or tell people my opinion or try and learn from others to get better. I think that just with time it’s happening more often because I’m in situations where I need to be a better leader and I think that I’m just learning from that.”
Simmons was selected as the Sixers’ post-game locker room bell ringer. Brett Brown has liked his mindset lately.
“His defensive mindfulness, his commitment to playing defense, his willingness to slide over to the four [spot] and let T.J. [McConnell} have the ball and make passes out of the elbow and do stuff. Like all of those things stood out. He’s moving in a really clear, positive direction.”
Defense Making Headway
When Brett Brown is asked to make evaluations about the state of the Sixers, the conversation almost always starts with defense.
To no surprise, the Sixers’ defensive performance during their 3-0 homestand was among the developments that resonated the loudest with the sixth-year head coach.
Over the course of this brief, yet impressive, stretch, the Sixers held the New York Knicks, Washington Wizards, and Memphis Grizzlies to an average of 94.7 points per game (the defensive rating from the Sixers’ past three games, 91.9, was even stronger).
Furthermore, the three teams combined to shoot just 38.8 percent from the field, and 28.3 percent from 3-point territory.
“Defensively, we’ve picked it up,” said Ben Simmons. “We’re getting better chemistry, and trusting each other a lot more.”
Click here for a complete box score.
An all-hands-on-deck kind of win.
After having the luxury of spending the better part of the past two weeks at home, the Sixers will set out on the road for what figures to be a challenging two-game trip. Up first will be the NBA-leading Toronto Raptors (20-4) Wednesday at Air Canada Centre. The Sixers are 0-1 against their Atlantic Division rival on the season. Then Friday, the club will face the Detroit Pistons (13-7) for the third time this year.