Game Preview | Getting Back on Track, With Some Fun

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

Scene Setter:

Did cutting down on turnovers help? Absolutely.

What about some extra shot-making and scoring beyond Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and JJ Redick, a trio that - by and large - has accounted for the bulk of the offense this season? Could that have made a difference?

Sure thing.

And solid defense, that mattered, too.

But another ingredient the 76ers felt was vital to their success Wednesday in Indianapolis was that, following a difficult defeat Sunday in Brooklyn, they quickly got back to having a good time on the court.

“We just had fun,” Ben Simmons said, leading off his post-game comments to reporters. He then proceeded to use the operative word from that statement - “fun” - seven more times in the span of about 100 seconds (that’s about one “fun” dropped per 18.5 seconds, for the advanced stats crowd).

It certainly looked like the Sixers’ vibes were good, especially in the second half, when they played within themselves, opened up a lead as large as 17 points, en route to an eventual 100-94 win.

The victory was a nice one - the Sixers’ first on the road, against a high-quality Eastern Conference opponent - and marked the club’s third in four games.

The “fun” element had a trickle down effect.

“It felt free, it felt loose,” rookie Landry Shamet said of how the Sixers played.

He should know.

The 2018 no. 26 pick was critical to fostering such an environment. In Wednesday’s contest, he connected on both a game-tying and go-ahead 3-pointer in the first half.

Shamet then added his first career dunk, and another trey in the second stanza.

“You could see guys being a little more expressive, and having fun,” he said. “We had really good energy. You’ve got to find a way to replicate that, feed off each other. It translates if one of us is having fun, you see that happening and it makes it more fun for everybody.”

Dario Saric, for instance, recaptured his stroke. Markelle Fultz wheeled and dealed when summoned in the second half. Robert Covington came up big down the stretch as well.

“We played defense, got stops, Dario made his shots getting back to himself,” said Joel Embiid. “Gotta give credit also to Markelle for the run we had at the end of the third, start of the fourth quarter. Cov did a good job, too.”

On the heels of the Nets loss, Brett Brown heightened his focus on the Sixers’ spirit, and challenged some of the team’s leaders to respond. It didn’t take long.

“We’re supposed to go out there and have fun, and enjoy it,” said Simmons. “This is what we do, we love what we do.”

For sure, X-and-Os, fundamentals, execution, it all adds up. But as the Sixers showed, tapping into a little love for the game often can’t hurt the cause, either.

Opponent Outlook:

In the midst of a stretch in which five of six games will be played on the road, the Sixers will stop at home Friday to host the Charlotte Hornets (6-5) for the second time in the first three weeks of the new year. Round 1 went to the Sixers, 105-103, back on October 27th. Charlotte came up short despite a 37-point effort from All-Star Kemba Walker. Walker is tied for third in the NBA in scoring (28.1 ppg). The Hornets, meanwhile, will head into Friday’s match-up having won three of four.

Follow Along:

Audio: 97.5 FM The Fanatic / Sixers Radio Network

Video: NBC Sports Philadelphia / NBC Sports MyTeams app, ESPN / ESPN+

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