Game Review | Winning Streak Reaches 11 With Convincing Win Over Nets
The games on the 76ers’ regular season schedule might be running out, but nothing is changing.
Brett Brown’s playoff-bound squad continues to play its best basketball of the year, the latest exhibit coming in Tuesday’s one-sided 121-95 victory over the Brooklyn Nets at The Center.
The win marked the Sixers’ 11th in a row, giving the club its longest winning streak since a 12-game surge that spanned parts of January and February in 1990.
At that point in time, 11 members of the Sixers’ current roster hadn’t even been born yet. Included in that group were several of Tuesday’s headliners.
Ben Simmons, the 21-year old phenom, set the tone early, and finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists. The double-double was his 36th of the year, and he was one of eight Sixers to tally 10 points or more.
Robert Covington, the Sixers’ 27 year-old small forward, helped lead the team's solid defensive efforts. He notched 4 steals and 3 blocked shots, to go with 6 boards, and 12 points.
JJ Redick paced the Sixers with 19 points, hitting 8 of his 15 field goal attempts. Ersan Ilyasova produced 11 points and 13 rebounds for his third double-double since rejoining the Sixers last month.
Also of note from Tuesday’s affair, Markelle Fultz had logged 20 minutes off the bench. It was his most extensive involvement since rejoining the fray last week. He pitched in with 10 points on 5 for 8 shooting.
“The group I think has responded in a way that is very protective,” said Brown, who was without starters Joel Embiid (concussion, fractured orbital bone) and Dario Saric (right elbow) for a second game in a row. “I feel they believe in themselves, and they’re trying to protect what we’ve built.”
A 16-0 run that bridged the first and second quarters put the Sixers in the driver’s seat, after they trailed by as many as five points. Ilyasova triggered the spurt with a pair of triples.
Brooklyn clawed back to within two points with four minutes to go in Tuesday’s second period, but the Sixers summoned up another key spurt - this one to the tune of 13 points in a row - to establish a 61-49 edge at the break.
Extending a signature trend during their current surge, the Sixers were again dominant in the third quarter. A flurry of baskets from Redick positioned the Sixers to outdo Brooklyn 32-22 in the frame, their lead ballooning to 26.
The Sixers dominated the interior, outscoring the Nets 62-32 in the paint. They also enjoyed a 21-5 advantage in points scored off turnovers.
By the end of Tuesday evening, the Sixers retained possession of the NBA’s longest active winning streak. They also remained 0.5 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for third place in the Eastern Conference standings, as a result of the Cavs beating the top-seeded Toronto Raptors Tuesday.
A Twist in the Rotation
An interesting wrinkle emerged in the Sixers’ rotation just past the eight-minute mark of Tuesday’s third quarter, as Markelle Fultz was paired up with Ben Simmons for the first time since returning to action last week.
The duo, consisting of the NBA’s two most recent no. 1 draft picks, logged nearly three and a half minutes together, the Sixers outscoring Brooklyn by one during the stretch. Fultz scored on a baseline jumper and driving lay-up, and was also credited for an assist. Simmons, too, had a helper.
Brett Brown said he liked the pace the pairing produced, and the way the Sixers moved the ball with both Fultz and Simmons simultaneously sharing the backcourt.
“It felt great,” Fultz said of his brief run with Simmons. “He’s a great player, obviously a point guard. He can do multiple things, pass the ball. It felt good to get a little taste out there with him.”
Prior to Tuesday, Fultz and Simmons had been used together for 31 minutes, all during Fultz’s first four appearances of the season, which came before his 68-game absence.
Simmons said he had fun playing with Fultz again.
“Having somebody who can run the floor and get to the rim and make plays makes it a lot easier for me,” said Simmons.
Simmons Makes More History
Early in Tuesday’s third quarter, Ben Simmons racked up the latest milestone of his historic debut campaign.
A driving lay-up pushed Simmons past the 1,200-point plateau for the year, making the Australian point man the second rookie ever to total 1,200 points, 600 rebounds, and 600 assists.
Oscar Robertson was the first first-year player to achieve the feat, doing so for the Cincinnati Royals in 1960-1961.
In the context of Sixers history, the only other person to post a 1,200 - 600 - 600 season stat line was Wilt Chamberlain. He reached those numbers in 1966-1967, and 1967-1968.
A Rarified Run
After downing an opponent by double-digits for a ninth consecutive contest, the Sixers now sit on the cusp of history. Only three teams in NBA history have won by 10 points or more in 10 straight games - the Washington Capitols, in 1946-1947; the New Jersey Nets, in 2003-2004; and the Houston Rockets, in 2007-2008.
Robert Covington turned in a terrific two-way effort Tuesday. His contributions during this particular second-quarter sequence captured the essence of his 3-and-D value (or, in this case, was it D-and-3?).
Some times the stuff is just not enough. pic.twitter.com/rP4LTJMJQo
— x - Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 4, 2018
The Sixers close out their second-to-last back-to-back set of the season Wednesday by visiting brand new Little Caesars Arena for the second time this year. The Sixers beat the Detroit Pistons there the first time around in October, 97-86. With a victory Wednesday, the Sixers will sweep Detroit in a four-game season series for the first time since the 2000-2001 campaign.