STAR OF THE WEEK:
This week’s star goes to arguably the league’s best mid-season acquisition, Marco Belinelli. The 76ers’ sharpshooter was a major factor in Philly finishing the week 3 – 0. Belinelli stepped in the starting lineup for an injured Dario Saric and continued his scoring pop. The Italian star averaged 16-points for the week and proved to be the necessary hot hand when his number was called.
Belinelli’s best performance came in a 121 – 113 win against the Atlanta Hawks. The visiting 76ers needed every bit of the guard’s 20-points to defeat the feisty Hawks. The third quarter is where the NBA journeyman did the most damage, scoring nine of his 20-points. It was quality over quantity when it came to the deep ball, as the role player hit five of the 12-three pointers he hoisted.
With the playoffs looming how Belinelli performs will be key in just how deep Philadelphia will go. Defense will also be instrumental in the Sixers post-season longevity. If the guard can accompany his three point shooting with a strong defensive effort, it is plausible to believe Philly can make an extended run.
STAT OF THE WEEK:
The Final Chapter
The final week of the season witnessed Philadelphia go from the hottest team in the league to one of the very best. Philly exerted a dominance not seen in these parts since Dr. J and Moses Malone were manning the hardwood. The team played strong on both ends of the court and seem ready for their return to the second season. The 76ers finished 1st in total rebounds per (54.3), 1st in assists per (32.0), 1st in offensive rating (115.0), 2nd in scoring (120.0), 2nd in made field goals (47.0), 4th in points in the paint (58.0) and 4th in field percentage going 49.8 percent. This was without All-Star center Joel Embiid, but the big man’s absence was felt in the transition game as Philly fell to 9th in fastbreak points (16.3).
Philly’s top ten reign was not regulated to just the offensive end, defensively Simmons’ and crew were just as stout. Philadelphia finished 2nd in steals (10.3), 4th in blocks per (6.3), 4th in opponent fastbreak points with 9.3, 4th in defensive rating at 95.3, 4th in opponent rebounds (41.7), but finished 13th in opponent points in the paint (45.3).
BEN SIMMONS VS. EVERYBODY
Los Angeles Lakers’ rookie Josh Hart is this week’s top rookie performer. The former Villanova Wildcat took advantage of his extended playing time, averaging 25.0 points and shooting 54-percent from the field. Hart’s best performance came in a 115 – 100 win against the Los Angeles Clippers. The rookie scored 30-points and shot a blistering 7-for-9 from three. For the week Hart shot 44-percent from three.
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. Therefore, while we partake in the now it is impossible to not reminisce the before.
Allen Iverson’s final four games were a microcosm of the guard’s entire inaugural year. The Sixer refused to wilt under the turbulence surrounding his recent scoring barrage. Iverson seemed determined to show both his fans and his detractors that the unbridled losing would not impact the future star’s passionate play.
Philly notched their final win of the season in a rare road victory against the New Jersey Nets. Iverson registered 27-points and 11-assists in the win, outdueling fellow rookie and Nets’ guard Kerry Kittles (26-points). The future Hall-of-Famer’s streak of 40 or more points came to an end in the contest, as did the Sixers’ eight game losing streak.
However, A.I.’s scoring onslaught was far from done. After trailing by as many as 25-points in the third quarter, the rookie led Philly to the brink of victory before ultimately falling short 119 – 113. The number one overall pick scored a game high 32-points in the loss. The final game of the year was a 136 – 104 blowout to the Atlanta Hawks. Philadelphia gave up 77-points in the first half and looked lifeless at times. Everyone except for No. 3 that is. Iverson dropped 35-points in the shellacking and ended the year scoring 30 or more in eight of the squad’s final nine contests.
The basketball year was over but A.I.’s run was just beginning. Allen later became the franchise’s first ever Rookie of the Year winner, and in the process morphed into a cultural icon. When Philly selected the six foot guard out of Georgetown the organization hoped for a great player, but what they received was an icon who captivated hearts instead of championships.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: