The 76ers began the week at 22-12, played three games, and dropped to 23-14. Let’s run through some quick hits:
Different Game, Same Result:
The 76ers played their second contest against the Boston Celtics this season, and the result was the same as the first: A loss that will sting the whole ride home.
It was the same old story for Ben Simmons against the Celtics. The 6’10” point guard was stymied offensively and struggled to take care of the basketball. This is nothing new for Simmons, as his plus/minus rating in his last seven matchups with Boston, is -96 in 260 minutes.
I have openly criticized Simmons this year because he did not take the step forward I believed he could this season. I believe that Simmons needed to at least change his approach, to improve as a player. I polled our Twitter audience to get their thoughts:
Until Ben Simmons develops a jumpshot, has he already reached his ceiling? (Meaning he cannot progress until he develops a jumper)
— Max Mangigian (@PhillySportsMax) December 26, 2018
It seems many people believe Simmons is holding himself back, while he continues to defer offensively. I have written a piece focused entirely on Simmons’ development this year, and my thoughts, you can read it here.
Turnovers have been a common theme and absolute killer for the 76ers, especially against good teams. The contest on Christmas day was no different, as the team coughed up the ball 19 times.
Embiid, who was having a monster night, mysteriously vanished from the 76ers’ game plan in the fourth quarter and overtime. Embiid through three quarters, had 30 points, on 9-13 from the floor, and was a perfect 10-10 on free throw attempts.
In the fourth quarter and overtime periods, Embiid recorded only four points. Embiid had plenty to say following this loss:
“I felt like I could have done more. I didn’t get the ball… I put this heavily on me because I know I could have done more… All day they couldn’t guard me.”
Despite the 76ers not playing their best game, they had a very good chance to win the game on Christmas Day. With the score tied, and Philadelphia with the last possession, JJ Redick found a wide open shot at the top of the key right inside the three-point line. Redick missed the shot as regulation expired, and the rest was history.
The 76ers had two timeouts during that last possession in regulation, and Brett Brown declined to use either of them to think it over. On one hand, it may have benefited them to think the last possession through and I don’t know, let Jimmy Butler shoot the last shot?
However, Redick did get a great look, and the 76ers will have to deal with the repercussions. It was disappointing, to say the least, to watch Philly keep the ball out of Butler’s hands at this moment when he has proven he can come up clutch.
The 76ers roster is flawed, and it is especially flawed when it comes to bench production. Here is a crazy stat: In the entire first half of the Christmas Day game, the 76ers bench recorded ZERO bench points. Yikes.
Markelle Fultz Update:
Adrian Wojnarowski gave 76ers fans a small gift of hope, with an update on Markelle Fultz’s rehab process.
According to Woj and Fultz’s agent Raymond Brothers, the rehabilitation process is ongoing, but progress has been made. Woj says that Fultz is already experiencing increased range of motion in his right shoulder.
This is obviously good news for Fultz, and the 76ers. I expect this rehab process to be done largely behind closed doors, so whenever we get these kinds of updates, I will always have it for you here.
As of now, there is no timetable for Fultz’s return to the 76ers, but according to Woj and Brothers, there is an expectation that Fultz plays again this season. Another great sign for the 20-year-old, who could really use some good news right about now.
A Look Ahead:
The 76ers will play three games next week. Philadelphia will finish their road trip after trips to Los Angeles to battle the Clippers, and Phoenix to play the Suns, before returning home to finish the week against the Dallas Mavericks.
Here is the slate of games for next week:
Tuesday, Jan. 1: @ Los Angeles Clippers
Wednesday, Jan. 2: @ Phoenix Suns
Saturday, Jan. 5: vs. Dallas Mavericks
Game of the Week: vs. Dallas Mavericks (Jan. 5)
This will be the first of only two meetings between these two teams this season, and it takes place in Philadelphia. This will be the first time that the 76ers will play against the Mavericks’ breakout rookie, Luka Doncic.
Doncic, the Slovenia native, was originally drafted to the Atlanta Hawks in the 2018 NBA Draft. The Mavericks would trade for Doncic, giving up the rights to Trae Young, and a protected first-round draft selection in 2019.
Dallas made the trade on draft night because they believed that Doncic was a franchise player. After playing only thirty-some games as a pro, it already seems like Dallas was right about this.
In his short NBA career thus far, Doncic is averaging 19 points, six rebounds, and just under five assists per game. Most importantly, Doncic has already had some signature clutch moments as a pro.
JUST SEND LUKA DONCIC TO THE HALL OF FAME. pic.twitter.com/mjV04kTzfx
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) December 24, 2018
The 76ers have had trouble containing players on the wing, and smaller guards, this season. The 6’7” 220-pound power forward will be looking for a big night against Philadelphia this Saturday.
You can catch the game at 7:30pm EST. on your local NBC affiliate channel, on January fifth.