76ers rout Celtics
The Sixers started another road trip last night with a game versus the rival Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Joel Embiid was back in the line up and the Sixers looked like they didn’t skip a beat. They dominated the underachieving Celtics team 106-96 to stay on pace with the Brooklyn Nets for first place in the Eastern Conference. Joel Embiid was a dominate force and the Celtics threw every big they had at him all night but had now answers. Embiid 35 points in an absolute dominate performance.
MVP Joel Embiid is back
It may be hard to make the case for Embiid to win MVP at this point considering the games he had to miss because of the knee injury, back soreness, or Covid protocols but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t and still isn’t playing at an MVP level. Joel missed 10 games due to a bone bruise in his knee, came back to drop 24 and 8 versus the T-Wolves, sat out the second half of a back to back, and then thrashed the Celtics for an easy 32 points.
Embiid may not win the MVP award (my pick as of now would be Jokic or Dame) but there is zero doubt that he has been one of the most dominate players, both on offense and defense, this year when he plays. Teams have consistently thrown double and triple teams to stop him but to no avail. He has been impossible to match up on 1 versus 1, even against guys who in the past had his number, like a Marc Gasol. Joel has expanded his game to be able to score at all three levels, including shooting ridiculously efficient at the midrange and hovering around 40% from three point territory.
Joel has been unstoppable all season, night in and night out. Last night he continued that trend post injury. Award or no award, look for Embiid to continue to play like an MVP for the final 21 games of the season and playoffs.
The Danny Green Corner Three
One of the first things Daryl Morey and company did this offseason was unload Al Horford and his contract to OKC for a future slightly protected first round pick. Because of the how the NBA CBA and salary cap work, the Thunder needed to send back players in order to satisfy salary matching. In that return the Sixers acquired 3 time NBA Champion Danny Green.
Green had been on the last two NBA Championship teams in Toronto and LA, but saw his numbers slump in the bubble with the Lakers. When Green was sent to Philly a lot of people, including myself, thought he was just a filler on an expiring deal, that had lost his touch as he got older and would most likely be moved at the deadline. He wasn’t moved at the deadline, and he clearly hasn’t lost his touch.
Green may be a step or so slower on defense, but still makes winning defensive plays every night, whether it’s a very well timed block or a steal Green always seems to be in the mix. And his shooting numbers have returned to form, shooting 41% on 6 threes a game for the season. Green has turned out to be a really excellent fit as a 3 and D guy along side Ben and Joel, he has brought a championship mentality to the team, and is proving to be much more than just a salary filler for the Horford trade.
It looks like Danny, who leads the league in corner threes made, is going to be a big piece down the stretch and in the playoffs for the 76ers.
Where is George Hill?
Last trade deadline the 76ers traded for Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III from the Golden State Warriors. The two apparently took the Oregon Trail to get here because it felt like weeks before they were with the team and playing. This year the 76ers made a moved, that in theory was the perfect low risk high reward move, trading Tony Bradley, second round picks, and salary filler for veteran point guard George Hill. The deadline was March 25th and Hill has yet to play for the 76ers.
So what is the deal with the newly acquired point guard? Well, good news he is with the team and participating in shoot arounds and getting to know the playbook. Doc Rivers has updated that he is shooting, but they aren’t going to rush him back and say he can’t see him in the line up “anytime soon”. Doc Rivers, with all due respect, hasn’t been the most on point when it has come to injury time lines this season while speaking with the media, so who really knows what “anytime soon” means. But it is good that he is with the team and learning, and the team is being smart and taking their time and not rushing him back.
Hill should bring a veteran guard presence, with playoff experience. He is a good shooter and can hold his own both offensively and defensively, which can prove vital in late game situations. The hope should be too that Hill can bring some stability to the second unit, and allow Shake to be more of a scorer, something I personally think is more natural for him. Hill can be simplistically described as a “table setter”, meaning he isn’t going to be some super mega creator/scorer but he will come in and set things up and hopefully make everyone else’s life a little bit easier, including Ben Simmons.
Finally, the Ben Simmons Talk
**NOTE: I just want to preface with this, recently Ben has said in media availability sessions things along the lines of “there is some shit going on” with little explanation on it. Last night Ben’s sister tweeted out some personal stuff that involve his family. If you want to, you can go look yourself. I don’t feel it is my place to write about it, nor make any assumption on him, his family, or how it may or may not have affected him on court. What I will say, and just a friendly reminder, that as big as these guys appear, they are still humans, and they still have problems in life outside of basketball, and it could easily affect their play on court. I don’t know if that is the case here and I won’t say it is or isn’t, that’s for Ben to talk about eventually if he wants to. For this topic I am going to focus just on stuff that happens on the cour.**
Post All Star break Ben Simmons has really been a polarizing topic of interest. There is something about Ben that is always polarizing in this city, but it’s really taken off since Joel has been out. And slightly rightfully so, even though the 76ers went 7-3 without Joel, they lost pretty embarrassing to the Nuggets and Grizzlies and Ben’s play didn’t exactly jump off the page. In fact since Joel went down Ben has seemed to slump back to where he was in the beginning of the year. A major red flag was seeing his scoring average drop down to 12 ppg during this time, which seems less than ideal when you would want him to step up while Joel is out. This has brought a ton of scrutiny.
In the beginning of the season when Ben was slumping, it was a third quarter outburst versus the Celtics that kind of jump started him. Last night was maybe another one of those jump start moments. Ben locked down Jayson Tatum and was aggressive on offensive. He attacked the rim early and drew fouls, even though he did miss his first four foul shots. Ben looked locked in last night and although he only scored 12 points again, it felt like he had much more of an imprint on this game than the last few. Hopefully, this will help boost his confidence, and with Joel back, and Hill returning at sometime, things will start to open up more for Ben to get some easier looks.
Also fun fact, Ben Simmons has never lost to Kemba Walker. 14-0 all time.
With the win last night the Sixers have the same exact record as the Brooklyn Nets, but hold a tie breaker for first place. The Nets will be without James Harden for at least 10 days. Luckily for them, Kevin Durant will make his return tonight after missing 22 games. The 76ers will look to continue their playoff push and try to stay on pace with the offensive juggernaut Brooklyn Nets Friday night when they travel to New Orleans to face Zion and the Pelicans at 8 PM.