The good, bad and ugly from Joel Embiid vs. Pacers

The good, bad and ugly from Joel Embiid vs. Pacers

Joel Embiid had himself a night in Tuesday’s 101-98 loss to the Pacers (see observations). There was plenty of good, plenty of bad, and yes, plenty of ugly.

Embiid had 29 points, including 22 in the second half. He also had 12 rebounds, four assists, eight turnovers (tying his career high) and a technical foul for shoving Lance Stephenson with 44 seconds left in the third quarter.

Embiid's three-pointer from the top of the key on the Sixers’ final possession would have tied the game, but it fell short.

After the game, Brett Brown said he didn’t think the technical distracted Embiid.

“I don’t think it takes him out of his game,” Brown said. “There are some times that I think it almost gets him going … I’m sure if we had that again, perhaps that’s not the way he’d want to handle it. But in general, I don’t think it does make him have a meltdown and lose focus. He’s pretty good like that, I think he likes to get excited.”

Embiid certainly played with an aggressive mindset following the technical. He had three emphatic dunks in the fourth quarter, and scored 12 points after his shove on the Pacers’ pesky guard. He also looked much more for his own offense, as evidenced by his 15 second-half field goal attempts and zero second-half assists.

One of the keys for the Sixers heading into the postseason will be Embiid finding the right balance between attacking out of the post and finding his teammates when faced with double teams. He probably erred on the conservative side in the first half, shooting just 2 for 7 and dishing out four assists.

While Brown is generally pleased with Embiid’s development as a decision-maker, he knows the Sixers can’t afford for Embiid to turn the ball over as often as he does. While Tuesday’s eight turnovers are an outlier, Embiid does turn the ball over 3.8 times per game on the season.

“He’s improving as a passer out of the post,” Brown said. “He’s improving as a willing passer, and I think some of his reads are sophisticated reads. I feel like we’re getting better on the floor spots we need to be in so he knows where his outlets are, and there are times where people are pecking at the ball and it squirts out; we have to get stronger at times with the ball.

“It might be the most important offense we have if we’re lucky enough to get in the playoffs, is, ‘What do you do around Joel?’”

It’s not ideal for the player the Sixers will likely lean on for the majority of possessions in the playoffs to have an assist-to-turnover ratio under one (0.84). That said, the Sixers know they have a dominant low-post scorer and defensive anchor in Embiid. Turnovers and technical fouls are great ways to shoot yourself in the foot in the postseason, but even with those flaws, Embiid is talented enough to scare elite teams.

Sixers crush Grizzlies for 40th win of season

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Sixers crush Grizzlies for 40th win of season


The Sixers turned up the heat against the Grizzlies on a snowy Wednesday night to win, 119-105, and improve to 40-30. 

The Sixers built a 30-point lead by the end of the third quarter, allowing the starters to rest in the fourth. Brett Brown cleared the bench, including both two-way contract players: James Young and Demetrius Jackson. 

This extra time off comes at the perfect moment for the Sixers, who will travel to Orlando for a back-to-back Thursday. Brown has been trying to find ways to give the high-minute players, especially Joel Embiid, a break amid the packed game schedule. 

• Talk about a balanced effort. The Sixers got nearly identical offensive contributions from Robert Covington, Dario Saric, JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli (15 points each), Embiid (14 points) and Ben Simmons (13 points). 

• Inconsistently-utilized players like Richaun Holmes and Justin Anderson are hungry to play and exhibit that on the floor with high energy. Holmes threw down dunks, causing the bench to react like this: 

• The opponent’s starting center struggled for the second straight game. Like Dwight Howard of the Hornets, Marc Gasol scored well below his season average with just five points. Gasol is posting 17.7 points per game this season.

• A win over the subpar Grizzlies wasn’t a guarantee. The Grizzlies beat the Sixers, 105-101, back on Jan. 22 in Memphis. That night, Tyreke Evans scored 10 points in the fourth quarter as they staged their biggest comeback victory of the season. The Chester, Pennsylvania, native was inactive Wednesday.

• Amir Johnson did his best Simmons impression with a behind-the-back pass to, appropriately, Simmons. 

• The Sixers gave away two free hot dogs at halftime for all those who came to the game in the snow. Fans filed out of their seats with 30 seconds left in the first half to get ahead of the lines on the concourse. 

Ben Simmons' rookie season vs. other Sixers greats

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Ben Simmons' rookie season vs. other Sixers greats

Ben Simmons has been better than advertised. That's not easy to do when you were the No. 1 overall pick in your draft class, and when you consider he’s been on the national radar since he was in grade school in Australia. Not to mention being the subject of a documentary his lone year in college. So it’s pretty remarkable to be somewhat taken aback at just how good he’s been his rookie season.

He's the ultimate stat-sheet stuffer at the ripe old age of 21. Simmons is averaging 16.2 points — not bad for a guy with a range of about seven feet and in. He’s dishing out 7.9 assists per contests while corralling 7.8 rebounds. He’s been better defensively than many anticipated, picking up 1.7 steals per game. And he’s shooting 53.5 percent from the floor.

So let’s put Simmons' rookie season in historical perspective with other Sixers rookies of note to see how he measures up. Keep in mind, organizational greats like Julius Erving and Moses Malone began their careers elsewhere.

And Wilt Chamberlain's rookie and career stats are so far and away superior that he can only exist in his own stratosphere. He is the hands-down G.O.A.T. So excluding him, here are my rankings of the other Sixers rookies on the list. This is clearly subjective, but my order is based in part on immediate impact on the team, league, wins from the previous season, and the eye test, having watched all but Wilt play in their first seasons. This is not based on body of career. 

5. Michael Carter-Williams
His numbers were in large part a product of no one else on the team being able to do anything. Not special. 

4. Charles Barkley
Having two Hall of Famers and three others who were phenomenal NBA players hurts Charles a bit in this ranking. His role was somewhat limited that season. But you could see what was coming. 

3. Joel Embiid
The 31 games played impacts him. He very likely would rank first had he played more ... his production was that mind-blowing. Even more remarkable is the fact that he sat out essentially two and a half seasons prior to last year. 

2. Allen Iverson
Yes, he also played on a bad team his first season, but you could see from the jump that he was a game-changer. Despite his tiny frame, he was the guy opposing coaches game planned to stop. The NBA culture changed the moment he stepped on the floor. A dominant force. 

1. Ben Simmons
He's the choice for top rookie season from a Sixer because of the across the board impact. Scoring, rebounds, assists, defense. He plays every night. And the turn-around in his club from 28 wins last year to potentially 48 this year can't be overlooked.