STAR OF THE WEEK:
Shooting 65-percent from the field and 63-percent from three is why Dario Saric is this week’s star. Saric was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal week. Philadelphia finished the week 1 – 2, as the EuroLeague star went for 21.3 points on 65.6 percent shooting in those three games. The forward’s hot hand extended to the three point line as he shot 63.2 percent from beyond the arc and snatched 7.0 rebounds in those three games.
In Philadelphia’s lone win of the week, a 128 – 114 victory against the Charlotte Hornets, Saric shot 4-for-7 from three, and finished the seven day period an astounding 12-for-19 from deep. Rebounding was also a fixture for Dario as he grabbed a game high 10-boards in a 108 -99 loss to the Miami Heat.
The upcoming week features four games in seven days, which can be a difficult stretch this late in the season. The slate of contests is highlighted by a Tuesday night match-up against the Indiana Pacers in Philadelphia. Indiana has split the two previous games against Philly, with each team winning on their home floor. Ball movement was key in Philadelphia’s victory as they amassed 34 assists in the win, opposed to just 21 assists in the loss. The 76ers are just one game behind the Pacers in the loss column and could win the season series if they can take care of business at home.
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Numbers Do Lie
“Numbers don’t lie” is one of the biggest lies in all of sports. Philadelphia’s statistically impressive week meant nothing as they finished 1 – 2 in the standings. Numbers wise the Sixers were a fairly dominant group, but the game is not played nor won on paper. The 76ers finished 1st in field goal percentage shooting 50.6 percent, 1st in assists (29.7), 2nd in three point percentage (45.9), 3rd in fastbreak points (20.3), 8th in points per game (112.3), 9th in made field goals (41.0), 18th in points in the paint (42.7), 23rd in rebounds per (40.7), and dead last (30th) in turnovers 19.3. If one were to look solely at the week’s numbers it would be tough to comprehend just how the 76ers lost two games. Yet with anything else the devil is in the details, and in this case when those numbers were stacked far supersedes the numbers themselves.
Teams win fans with scoring, but they win games with defense. The defensive decline played a magnificent role in this week’s demise. The team finished 23rd in opponent made field goals (43.0), 24th in opponent points per at 113.3, 24th in defensive rating (111.0), 24th in opponent points in the paint allowing 48.7, 25th in opponent field goal percentage (48.9), 25th in steals (6.3), and 27th in three point percentage (44.9). Fans can only hope the fall was an aberration and not a preview of things to come.
Much has been made about center Joel Embiid being possibly fatigued, and while no one can know for certain the numbers do give credence to such a notion. In fourth quarter action players defended by Embiid scored an average of 3.7-points and hit 84-percent of their shots. That was the most allowed of any player who played three or more games in the week. The center will be counted on heavily come the postseason. Now that the big man has played a career and lifetime high of 53 games it is anyone’s guess how much he has left in the tank.
BEN SIMMONS VS. EVERYBODY
Donovan Mitchell is this week’s top rookie! The Utah Jazz are now just one game out of the eighth and final playoff spot and no one will be shocked if they somehow sneak into the postseason. Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell is struggling with his efficiency, but those struggles have not deterred the young man. The Jazz won all three contest during the week and Mitchell went for 17.0 points, 5.3 assists and 4.3 boards in those wins.
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 rookie year essentially had two start dates. The first came when the season began in October and the second arrived the moment he crossed Michael Jordan up in a 108 – 104 lost in March. The rookie everyone loved to hate had now earned everyone’s respect and admiration. When the Chicago Bulls came to town on March 12th for a game against the lowly Sixers, few envisioned it would be a first year player who would steal the show. Iverson scored a then career high (and game high) 37-points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Yet, it was a move simply known as “the crossover” that remains embedded in people’s minds.
After this game there was nothing but love from Bulls’ players and pundits alike. Scottie Pippen would go on record stating “I like him as a player”, while Airness conceded “I'm sure I wasn't the first (to be beat) and I'm sure I won't be the last.”
The 76ers’ guard also exercised the “Stephon Marbury for Rookie of the Year” demons, as just two night later the 76ers demolished the Minnesota Timberwolves 109 – 95. Defeating Marbury on the heels of his iconic crossover were the first step in distancing himself from the pack. It would not be long before Iverson simply eliminated all competition.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: