The 76ers began the week at 28-16, and won two of their three games this week to improve to 30-17. Let’s run through some quick hits:
Butler Faces Former Team, Saric and Covington Return to Philadelphia:
The 76ers and the Minnesota Timberwolves met for the first time since the trade for Jimmy Butler.
Dario Saric, Robert Covington returned to Philly for the first time since being traded.
Saric and Covington were embraced by the Philadelphia fans and the 76ers roster, Butler was not as kindly received by his former team.
Jimmy Butler vs. KAT in the post 👀 pic.twitter.com/zXZE2T05rV
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 16, 2019
While the 76ers are a much better team than the Wolves, it was a game both teams had circled on their calendars. Philadelphia came out on fire, dropping 83 points in the first half.
The domination did not stop until time expired. Philadelphia thumped Minnesota, 149-107.
It was a big night for Embiid, as he recorded his 19th 30-point performance of the season, second in the NBA to James Harden (who the 76ers will see today).
The 76ers’ 149 points was the highest ever scored in the Wells Fargo Center. The win gave the 76ers their 19th home win, matching the Bucks for most in the NBA.
It was a team win for Philadelphia, who had a combined 40 assists, the most by NBA team this season in regulation.
Even though the 76ers were determined to humiliate the Wolves, it was still all love for Saric and RoCo after the game.
Everybody showing love for some old pals after the game. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/7GPPKOKhbz
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 16, 2019
The wound was not healed however for the rest of the Wolves. Butler had some choice words after hearing reports that he “bullied” his former teammate, Karl-Anthony Towns.
Jimmy Butler had words for John Calipari after Calipari said Butler bullied Karl-Anthony Towns. pic.twitter.com/SuXthBHoRw
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 18, 2019
Also, Shoutout Marc Zumoff, the voice of the 76ers. At only 22-years-old, Zumoff has been covering the 76ers for longer than I have been alive.
In my eyes, he is THE voice of Philadelphia basketball. Here’s to another 25 years of Zumoff calling for Philadelphia to “lock all windows and doors.”
Markelle Fultz Update:
We have another “update” on the situation with Markelle Fultz, per Woj.
Fultz has been undergoing therapy for thoracic outlet syndrome in Los Angeles since leaving the Sixers in early December. Sixers have had staff in California observing progress, and now Fultz will work at team's facility to try to ramp up for an eventual return to the season. https://t.co/c67hh1rI9g
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 19, 2019
76ers fans are reasonably tired of hearing the phrase “no timetable for his return,” but this should not have come as a surprise.
As I have previously written about Fultz’s Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a reasonable timetable for Fultz to resume normal basketball activity on a daily basis is six to twelve weeks. Fultz left the team to get treatment six weeks ago.
After all, Fultz’s TOS was made worse by overuse. Philadelphia will not rush Fultz back.
If you have any question about Fultz and his TOS, I highly recommend reading my Fultz piece that was deep dive into his condition and the future of Fultz in the NBA.
Whenever we get updates on a more concrete timetable to Fultz’s return to basketball, I will cover it here.
76ers Lose Heartbreaker to OKC:
The 76ers were primed for a huge sweep of games this week, but Paul George had something to say about that.
Philadelphia got down early against Oklahoma Cityand ended up taking the lead with less than 30 seconds remaining.
Jimmy Butler. Paul George. WHAT A FINISH 😳 pic.twitter.com/oQcwp8atgm
— ESPN (@espn) January 19, 2019
The celebration quickly turned sour when George drained a three-point basket, and was fouled by Butler. George would hit the free throw to complete the four-point play, to put OKC up two with 5.1 seconds remaining.
Philadelphia had to travel the length of the floor, and Simmons was able to advance the ball with enough time to get a good shot off.
Simmons crossed half court with a head of steam but visibly double-clutched after briefly considering creating his own shot.
Simmons decided to defer to Butler who was double teamed and forced to put up a contested three at the end of regulation.
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) January 20, 2019
Simmons knew that he could have gotten to the net and at least would have been fouled attempting to dunk at the buzzer. The fear of needing to make both free throws in the guts of game forced him to choke the game away.
Oklahoma City escaped Philadelphia with a win, and it left Simmons with some tough questions to answer following the game.
Ben Simmons says he was ready to pull up for what would’ve been a potential game-winning three on the final play before he saw Jimmy Butler’s man sag off him, and got him the ball instead.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) January 19, 2019
Simmons late game mistake and missed free throws down the stretch overshadowed an otherwise dominant performance from the point guard. Simmons finished with 20 points, 11 boards, and nine assists.
A Look Ahead:
The 76ers will play three games next week. Philadelphia will host two national TV games before heading west to Denver to close out their week. Here is the slate of games:
Monday, Jan 21: vs Houston Rockets (TNT)
Wednesday, Jan 23: vs San Antonio Spurs (ESPN)
Saturday, Jan 26: @ Denver Nuggets (Local)
The 76ers began the beginning of an absolute gauntlet of tough games last week, and will play three playoff teams from the Western Conference this week.
There are plenty of tough games upcoming for Philadelphia, as they enter the hardest part of their schedule.
The 76ers will have to take it day by day, but every game feels like a must-win at this stage.
Game of the Week: vs Houston Rockets (Jan 21):
One could make a case for each game this week being the most important. Houston feels like best team of the bunch, despite the Nuggets trailing only Golden State in the Western Conference standings.
The Rockets are currently sitting in fifth place in the West but I believe they will finish in the top half of the conference by playoff time.
The Rockets, who have been great at home, will have to travel to Philadelphia. Houston has struggled on the road, going 9-12 away from the Toyota Center.
Led by James Harden, the 76ers will have their hands full trying to contain the explosive offense from Houston.
Harden has scored 57, 58, and 48 points in his last three games respectively. He has also topped 50 points four times total this season.
Philadelphia has infamously had trouble stopping offensive guards this season, and this contest will be no different.
Despite only shooting 43% from the field this season, Harden has been able to run up the score by frequently getting to the free-throw line.
Hardern is averaging just under 12 free throw attempts per game, which leads the NBA. The Beard is shooting 86% from the line this year.
Harden also leads the NBA in attempts per game, with 23. Harden is famous for being able to score in a myriad of ways, and also famous for shooting all night long.
How many points will the reigning MVP put up in Philly, on Monday night?
You can watch the game, Monday at 8pm EST. on TNT.
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.