The 76ers began the week at 14-8 and won all three of their contests to improve to 17-8. Let’s run through some quick hits:
The 76ers are hot right now. They have won four straight, and eight of their last nine. They have the best home record in the NBA and are now sitting at second in the Eastern Conference. Oh, and they also lead the NBA in attendance.
Since acquiring Jimmy Butler, the Sixers are 8-2. The sizzling 76ers are led by their stars: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Butler.
Through the first quarter of the season, Embiid is making a case for league MVP, averaging over 27 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks per game.
The 24-year-old has been playing 34 minutes per game this season, a very encouraging sign. JoJo has taken a big step in 2018, and the 76ers are shining because of it.
Ben Simmons is averaging 15 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists per game. With the recent shooting success of the 76ers, Simmons has been able to quietly distribute the ball effectively. When Philadelphia needs a bucket, they have two great options in Embiid and Butler, giving Simmons options to defer to.
Butler has been the difference-maker late in games since coming to Philadelphia.
Butler has two game-winning triples in 10 games as a 76er and gives Philadelphia the killer instinct they desperately needed.
Since joining the team, Butler has averaged 17 points, five rebounds, and three assists per game in 32 minutes. While his numbers may not be eye-popping, his ability to make plays on both ends late in games has been the difference between winning and losing.
New Look Bench:
With the departure of Robert Covington and Dario Saric, the absence of Markelle Fultz, and the return of Wilson Chandler, Philadelphia’s depth looks different.
Prior to the roster shift, the 76er bench looked something like this: JJ Redick, Landry Shamet, Mike Muscala, and Amir Johnson.
As of their most recent stretch, the bench minutes have been reallocated. JJ Redick is now back in the starting lineup instead of Fultz, and Chandler is starting at the four.
With some new room at guard, McConnell is back to playing a bigger reserve role in the backcourt.
Furkan Korkmaz has earned some more playing time at the wing due to the departure of Covington and Saric. Shamet has also gotten more opportunities to play, as he continues to impress.
The bench will be a point of focus against the top teams in the East, as Toronto and Boston are arguably some of the deepest teams in the NBA. Now that the 76ers have the star power to match Toronto and Boston, their bench will be the deciding factor in a playoff series.
It is one thing to beat a team once, it’s an entirely another to beat them four times in seven games. Korkmaz and Shamet will have to rise to the occasion in the postseason, despite being youngsters.
With some big leads late in games this week against the Knicks and Wizards, the bench has gotten a chance to play more than usual. This gives young players a chance to make good impressions, and lobby for more minutes.
In the past week, McConnell has averaged over 23 minutes and has shown why he is a fan favorite in Philadelphia. McConnell had a season-high 15 points against the Wizards on Friday night, along with two rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Korkmaz has shined this week in the late stages of games recently.
In two games against the Knicks and Wizards, Korkmaz finished with a combined 25 points, six assists, and plus/minus rating of +22, in 40 minutes played. Furkan has been a pleasant surprise and could continue to grow his role on the 76ers if he continues to play at this level.
Shamet has also been an unexpected surprise, as he has shot just under 40% from three in his rookie season. Shamet has been able to provide a huge need for the 76ers, with his ability to catch and shoot effectively. He is averaging 20 minutes per game this season, and he has earned every minute.
The hope is that this kind of play between Shamet and Korkmaz will continue, and carry into the postseason, where they will need to play meaningful minutes.
A Look Ahead:
The 76ers will head on the road next week, playing only two games, both away from Philadelphia. Here is next week’s slate of games:
Wednesday, Dec. 5: @ Toronto Raptors
Friday, Dec. 7: @ Detroit Pistons
Philadelphia is currently 4-7 on the road in the 2018-2019 season, and neither game next week will be an easy task. The 76ers will look to improve their road record, against a great Toronto team, and a Detroit team that has already given the 76ers trouble this season.
Game of the Week: @ Toronto Raptors (Dec. 5)
I think this one is pretty obvious. Once the 76ers acquired Jimmy Butler, this was a game I had circled on the schedule.
It will be the first meeting with either Toronto or Boston, the two favorites in the Eastern Conference since the 76ers obtained their newest star. Prior to the addition of Butler, it was fairly clear that Philadelphia was a step below Boston and Toronto.
Since then, many have speculated that this has changed, and with the addition of Butler, Philadelphia is back in the conversation for the Eastern Conference crown. This will be the world’s first chance to see if Philadelphia can play with the best in the East.
If the 76ers are going to win a tough game on the road this week in Toronto, it will be on the back of Joel Embiid. Joel Embiid must be active on both ends and frequently get to the line. Ben Simmons and the 76ers will have to do a much better job of taking care of the basketball than they did in their last bout with the Raptors.
You can catch the game Wednesday night, December 5, at 8pm EST. on ESPN.