STAR OF THE WEEK:
Philadelphia 76ers’ center Joel Embiid is this week’s star. The first time All-Star returned from the break ready to lead the young Philly group. As the big man continues to defy the laws of attrition and post big time numbers, the Sixers continue to roll. Chicago Bulls’ reserve center Bobby Portis played the game of his life, offensively, but struggled mightily against Embiid on the defensive end.
Portis scored a game high 38-points, but it was Embiid’s 30-points and 13-rebounds that would prove insurmountable as Philly took the game 116 – 115. Philadelphia returned home for a match-up against the lowly Orlando Magic. For the second straight game the Sixers scored 116 points, and for the seventh straight time Philly was victorious 116 – 105. Once again the catalyst was Embiid, who torched the Magic to the tune of 28-points and 14-rebounds.
The upcoming week will be a tough road to tow for the 76ers, with four games in seven nights. Making matters worse all four teams are in playoff contention, and three of those squads are above the .500 mark. There is no time like the present for the young All-Star to announce his Eastern Conference presence with authority.
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Philadelphia has won seven straight games and eight of their last nine, which gives them the 3rd best record (8 – 1) in the month of February. Scoring is not how the 76ers amassed such an impressive February record, as they currently are 10th in field goal percentage (47.7), 12th in three-point field goal percentage (37.5), 13th in made field goals, and 15th in points per game with 107.3 per. All season ball movement has been key to Philly’s success, and even mediocre scoring results could not stifle those results as Philadelphia remains 5th in assists (26.9) during this impressive run.
On the opposite end of the court is where this young group has excelled. Philly ranked 1st in opponent made field goals (36.6), 1st in opponent field goal percentage (42.2), 1st in defensive rating (98.4), 2nd in opponent points with 99.2 per, 3rd in opponent fastbreak points (8.9), and 4th in steals per with 8.8. Losing big leads was commonplace early in the season, however now it appears the Sixers have exercised those demons.
Learning how to close out games was the next and necessary step, if this group wanted to become playoff particptors, and now the team seems to have taken care of that issue. Newcomer Marco Belinelli leads the team in fourth quarter points at 7.3, minutes at 9.7 and field goal percentage despite only playing in three games.
BEN SIMMONS VS. EVERYBODY
Ben Simmons is once again top rookie for the week. The Philadelphia 76er shot an astounding 69 percent from the field in leading the Sixers to an undefeated week. Simmons’ best performance came in a 116 – 115 win in Chicago playing against the Bulls. The first year point forward dropped 32-points, dished out 11-assists and snatched seven boards. For the week Simmons averaged 24.5 points, nine assists and five rebounds.
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.
On and Off
Allen Iverson shot 5-for-11 in a 104 – 100 win versus the woeful Vancouver Grizzlies, as the rookie’s season of extremes continued. Scoring became Iverson’s calling card throughout his NBA career, but points did not equate to wins. Dropping seven assists and managing only three turnovers is how the guard proved his worth in this victory.
Just a few nights later in Portland a more efficient A.I. could not protect his troops from a 112 – 95 shellacking by the Trail Blazers. On most occasions a productive Iverson led to a win for Philadelphia, but this was not one of those occasions. The third quarter was the deciding quarter as Portland outscored the Sixers 35 – 20 in the quarter.
Despite Allen’s inconsistent play the first overall pick was learning how to navigate through the season’s waters and it would not be long before he would change his season’s tides.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: