The Sixers just won back to back road games without two all stars where they blew the doors off a team and the starters didn’t even play the 4th quarter. And I feel like I got hit by a bus.
It was infuriating when Adam Silver threw an exhibition game in the middle of a pandemic that left the Sixers without Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons for the back half of the schedule kick-off. And it was deflating once they got Embiid back, just to see him leave once more with a teeth-clenching hyperextension of his knee.
But this Sixers season, a breath of fresh air from seasons past, has been all about positive vibes. So it’s best to keep the positive vibes rolling right now.
What the Sixers can take from the extended absence of their two all-stars is the seemingly ever growing confidence of their bench players. Thrust into more minutes and starting roles, they have responded with back to back 20+ point wins where starters Tobias Harris and Seth Curry didn’t have to touch the floor in the fourth quarter. There were several role players who have been thriving and a couple bench rotation moves that are clicking:
Thybulle could lead the league in steals going away if he played starters minutes. He is still Top 10 in the league despite his limited role. Holding it down for Ben Simmons he has 8 steals in two games. He held Bradley Beal and Zach Lavine, two Eastern Conference all-stars, under 20 points on back to back nights. ‘Tise has also improved offensively and hit two momentum shifting three pointers in Chicago the other night. The key for him is getting some sort of offensive consistency so he can touch the floor in playoff games. Or, he has potentially become so dominant on defense that they will put him in the playoff rotation anyway regardless of offensive production.
The Furkan Korkmaz/Dwight Howard PNR:
Kudos to Doc Rivers for coming in and immediately making this team run high ball screens all the time, which is life in the NBA in 2021. That his been absent in years past in this offense while the team got killed by it on defense. Furkan Korkmaz has actually looked surprisingly comfortable as the decision maker at the top of the key and against the Wizards, was constantly calling for screens from Howard. Korkmaz has 34 points since the All-Star break, he’s got 7 assists (mostly to Howard), and a smirk on a made three against the Wiz that made you want to adore him. Howard continues to be a valuable rim runner and rebounder when he isn’t beating the shit out of his defender like he’s in an UFC Octagon.
Tony Bradley Lives:
It would be easier to point out Shake Milton improving his shooting in Washington, and that probably matters more. But Tony Bradley was a perfect 7-7 the other night for 14 points. He played a season high in minutes, and then turned around and had to hold down the fort after Embiid’s scary fall. He’s been so fundamentally sound, setting good screens, rebounding well and catching passes in traffic. Here’s hoping Joel Embiid is totally fine and the MVP run lives on (as does the title run). But it’s nice to know Big Tony is good for a spot start during this grueling spring NBA schedule.