STAR OF THE WEEK:
Joel Embiid is this week’s star. The 76ers’ big man led Philly to a 3 – 1 record with a businesslike approach to the most recent slew of games. The Sixers played only one game against a team with a winning record during the seven day stretch, and were unable to come out on top. Embiid posted 29-points, 12-boards and three blocks in the 101 – 98 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
However, the only blemish of the week was easily overlooked because of Philadelphia’s dominance over the City of New York. The Sixers destroyed the Brooklyn Nets 120 – 97, then made light work of the New York Knicks 118 – 110 and then followed up with another workmanlike victory over the Nets (120 – 116) to end the week. Embiid put up a yeoman effort averaging 25.8 points, 12.3 rebounds with two blocks. The center notched a double-double in three of the four contests.
The upcoming week offers a personal challenge in Marc Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, and a playoff team in a Saturday night match-up against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Gasol has fared well against Embiid, holding the Philadelphia center to just 13.9 points on 39-percent shooting in their two meetings. The Grizzlies as a whole are 2 – 0 when playing against the franchise big.
The upstart Timberwolves have been struggling of late without All-Star forward Jimmy Butler and are 5 – 5 in their last 10 games. Many have picked the duo of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns to be future league stars. Yet, it is Ben Simmons and Embiid who have managed to balance team success with individual success. Numbers aside which young team is poised to become a true conference threat will be on the line Saturday. The Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic round out the week.
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Business as Usual
Philadelphia returned to its top ten statistical roots in offensive categories. Playing against, shall we say, modest competition Philly exerted its physical prowess in each of their three victories. The team played strong on both ends of the court and seem ready for the playoffs. The 76ers finished 2nd in offensive rebounds (12.8), 2nd in assists at 29.0, 4th in rebounds (47.8), 5th in offensive rating (114.3), tied for 6th with 42.3 field goals made, 8th in points per at 114.0, 8th in field goal percentage (47.5), and 9th in three-point field goal percentage (38.3). However, things were not all grasshoppers and water ice for the 76ers. The group finished a surprising 18th in points in the paint.
Philly’s top ten reign was not regulated to just the offensive end, defensively the boys were stout as well. Philadelphia finished tied for 5th in opponent three-point made field goals (8.8), 6th in opponent field goal percentage (43.8), 7th in opponent three-point field goal percentage (34.3), 7th in opponent made field goals (39.0), 7th in defensive rating at 104.2, 10th in opponent points per at 106.0 , 10th in opponents points in the paint (43.5), and 10th opponent fastbreak points (12.0).
Back-to-back games have finally become a part of Joel Embiid’s resume. Thus far the big man has played in five back-to-back games, and Philly is an unassuming 3 – 2 in those contests. The big is averaging 25.0 points and 14.0 rebounds, which is his highest among any other days of rest. Such an output is nothing to disregard, but it is worth noting that production comes on 39-percent shooting and with 20.8 shot attempts. Wear and tear seems to be prevalent and should be something Philly is concerned with.
BEN SIMMONS VS. EVERYBODY
Ben Simmons almost averaged a triple-double in four games, but it is Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell who is this week’s top rookie performer. Mitchell’s most impressive performance came in a 116 – 99 win against the playoff bound New Orleans Pelicans. The rookie guard dropped 27-points (25 coming in the second half) en route to the win. Utah is in the midst of a nine game winning streak and have solidified their postseason chances. The Jazz rookie ended the week with 22.8 points and five boards to go along with 1.5 steals.
Here are some of the other top rookie performers for the week:
ANSWERING THE CALL – A.I.’s ROOKIE YEAR:
It has been exactly 20 seasons since Hall-of-Fame guard Allen Iverson first blessed the NBA hardwood and ignited the city of Philadelphia. From the moment the Virginia native donned a Philadelphia 76ers uniform fans everywhere had a feeling Iverson was special and their basketball prayers were finally answered.
The organization struggled mightily through five consecutive losing seasons before selecting the six foot powerhouse out of Georgetown, first overall. It appears the franchise has found another transcendent player, in first year “guard” Ben Simmons. Oddly enough this year’s prized rookie guard hits the court after yet another five consecutive losing seasons.
As spectators enjoy the greatness and infancy stages of Simmons’ career, it is hard to forget the last time Philly had something (or someone) this special to root for. So while we partake in the now, it is impossible to not reminisce the before.
After rocking icon Michael Jordan with his patented crossover, and exercising the demons of Stephon Marbury possibly being in the same class as him, Allen Iverson returned to earth. HARD! Iverson shot 39-percent in the four game span and Philly finished 1 – 3. Philadelphia lost all three games by double digits, including a 123 – 105 thrashing to the equally woeful New Jersey Nets. The very same New Jersey group they defeated just five days earlier.
In the Sixers lone win, against the aforementioned Nets, Iverson shot a miserable 4-for-12 scoring 19-points. The rookie almost cost the 76ers the game, when he fouled Jersey point guard Sam Cassell late in the fourth quarter. Cassell made both freethrows to give him 28-points for the game, however the two-time champion got hit with a technical foul for taunting. The Sixers hit the freethrow and then a late put back by Derrick Coleman secured the win.
A.I.’s rookie season was filled with extremes and this week was no different. With just 14 games remaining the guard knew he needed a herculean effort if he wanted to win the franchise’s first ever Rookie of the Year award.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: