The 76ers began the week at 30-17, won two of their three contests and currently sit at 32-18. Let’s run through some quick hits:
76ers keep Harden, Rockets Grounded
The 76ers hosted James Harden and the Rockets on Monday night. There were notable absences from both teams, with Jimmy Butler (wrist) and Chris Paul (hamstring) not playing.
Philadelphia took a lead in the first quarter and never looked back. Harden was contained by the 76ers, as much as a team can, and it left Harden frustrated. Philadelphia used four different defenders on Harden in the first half alone.
Using guys like TJ McConnell and Brewer to guard Harden, was a tactful way of chipping away at Harden’s patience, and inevitably threw him off his game.
Brewer had this to say following the win over Houston: “If you’re a competitor, you want to get a guy off his game. Make them make the shot doesn’t want to take, or get in his head a little bit. It worked.”
While Harden’s performance was cut short due to the game being out of reach by the end of the third quarter, he still managed to score 37 points. It came on 12 of 26 shooting, however. This was business as usual for Rockets this year, living and dying with Harden shooting all game long.
Philadelphia’s fans and players alike were excited about the win.
“It was fun… I mean, we beat them by 30, so it was really fun for us,” Embiid said post game.
Corey Brewer Makes Most of Jimmy Butler’s Absence
Corey Brewer signed a 10-day contract with Philadelphia last week and was immediately inserted into the starting lineup to fill the void of Butler’s absence. Brewer finished the game against the Rockets with 11 points, three rebounds, two steals, two blocks, and an assist.
Brewer was playing for his future in the NBA, and it was noticeable. With a plus-17 rating following the game, it was clear the Brewer was staying in game shape while waiting for a chance. Brewer was playing for his job, and it looks like it is working.
Since inking Brewer to a 10-Day contract, the 76ers fans have treated him like family.
It is no wonder that a fan base like Philadelphia would rally behind a guy who was unemployed two weeks ago.
Brewer’s immediate success and tenacity is a credit to his unwavering work ethic that kept him in game shape despite being passed on.
Brewer capped the week off by signing a second 10-Day contract and balling out again against the Denver Nuggets. Brewer took the starting lineup spot of the injured Jimmy Butler, and poured in 20 points, brought down six rebounds, and came away with four steals.
For Brewer, the formula is simple. “What I do is play hard, I bring energy, and I do whatever it takes to win games.”
While he may not be the savior of a team, Brewer’s nightly tenacity alone is a tremendous help for a team with a low-end bench. Does Brewer deserve to be on the roster the rest of the season?
Embiid’s Case For MVP
Joel Embiid’s charisma and smack talk alone earn him “M-V-P” chants in Philadelphia. Except now, Embiid has a legitimate case as the league’s Most Valuable Player.
With respect to James Harden and his insane year that he is having, Embiid has been terrorizing teams this year.
It is not his staggering averages that really make his case, either. It’s what Philadelphia basketball is with him, and what Philadelphia basketball is without him.
Embiid’s presence on the court demands so much attention that without him, the 76ers are a shell of themselves. Embiid is the team’s leading scorer, he averages the most free throw attempts, he is an all-NBA rim protector and can shoot from the perimeter.
Embiid has 40 double-doubles this season, leading the NBA. He also has 21 games with at least 30 points, and 10 rebounds, the most by a 76er since Charles Barkley in 1990-1991.
Without Embiid on the floor, the 76ers look only marginally better than a lottery team. When it comes to the impact a player adds and subtracts with their presence, Embiid has a real case to be the most valuable player in the NBA.
Embiid is currently tied for seventh in odds to win MVP, tied with Kevin Durant with +2000 via OddShark. Should Embiid have better odds?
A Look Ahead
The 76ers will head west next week, to begin a three-game west coast trip, starting with the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night. Here is the slate of games:
Tuesday, Jan 29: @ Los Angeles Lakers (TNT)
Thursday, Jan 31: @ Golden State Warriors (TNT)
Saturday, Feb 2: @ Sacramento Kings (Local)
The tough stretch continues for the 76ers, as they face three good teams next week from the western conference. Most notably, the NBA champion Golden State Warriors. Do not overlook the LeBron-less Lakers, or the young Sacramento Kings either.
Game of the Week: @ Golden State Warriors (January 31)
Any game against an NBA defending champion is a tall task, this task is much taller than most games against defending champions.
The Warriors have five All-Stars in their starting lineup after the anticipated return of Demarcus Cousins last week.
It is tough to bring one player to the spotlight when the team is so dominant at every position. The 76ers motor relies heavily on Embiid, and without him, Philadelphia struggles greatly.
While losing any player in Golden State’s starting lineup would leave a large hole, the pieces around them can make up the difference.
Philadelphia, who has been shredded by Spencer Dinwiddie this season, will have to attempt to contain Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green. And Demarcus Cousins on the road.
It will be a measuring stick challenge for Philadelphia to see if they can hang with the upper class of the NBA. Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler will need to step up in a large capacity if the 76ers want a chance to steal a win in Golden State.
You can watch the game at 10:30 pm EST on TNT on Thursday, January 31.
For all things 76ers, make sure to keep up with Basketball Society on social media. Talk to me personally on Twitter @PhillySportsMax, and I will see y’all next week.