76ers

Sixers-Pacers observations: A rare 4-game win streak

Sixers-Pacers observations: A rare 4-game win streak

BOX SCORE

In a game mixed with physical play and finesse offense, the Sixers stretched their winning streak to four with a 121-110 victory over the Pacers on Friday night.

They improved to 5-4 and got over the .500 mark for the first time since Nov. 13, 2013. It was the first time the Sixers have won four straight since the 2013-14 season.

The Paul George-less Pacers have been surprisingly one of the tougher teams in the league this season. They came to Philadelphia on a three-game winning streak, including Ws over the Spurs and Cavaliers, but the Sixers ended that.

JJ Redick exploded for 31 points as he went 8 for 12 for three. He made acrobatic shots in game-changing moments down the stretch (3 of 4 from three in the fourth), including an off-balance trey to beat the shot clock and go up six with a minute to go, showing why he was so coveted in free agency.

The Pacers didn’t go down without a fight. They flip-flopped dominating quarters with the Sixers and led by three with four minutes to play. Victor Oladipo (see below) scored nine straight at one point in the fourth. 

• Ben Simmons is racking up the triple-doubles. He posted 14 points (six in the fourth), 11 rebounds and 11 assists along with three steals and three blocks in 39 minutes (see highlights). Simmons committed five of the Sixers' 20 turnovers. The feat marked Simmons’ second triple-double of the season. 

• Joel Embiid (18 points, nine rebounds, five assists, six turnovers) was on the receiving end of the refs’ whistles (see highlights). He was issued a flagrant late in the first quarter after he went for a block and instead swatted Joe Young in the head. Embiid picked up his third foul with less than two minutes to play in the second quarter and his fourth just over three minutes into the third. He also was hampered by missed dunks throughout the game. 

• Dario Saric said he feels a sense of pressure and responsibility being back in the starting lineup. To that, Brett Brown commented, “Definitely not pressure. Definitely responsibility. He’s got to play free.” Saric looked confident early on and scored seven points in the first quarter. He scored 15 points (3 for 5 from three) and snared six rebounds in 21 minutes. 

• Richaun Holmes made his regular-season debut on Friday. Amir Johnson got the backup center minutes in the first half and Holmes subbed in for Embiid with 8:57 to go in the third. Holmes (six points, five rebounds, 10 minutes) was aggressive and showed that “bounce” Brown has been talking about. He had a put-back dunk off a Redick miss and got up for this jam from from T.J. McConnell (see video).

• Myles Turner played his second game of the season after missing the last seven (concussion). He came in off the bench and quickly looked for his shot while spreading the floor (11 points, 4 for 14 from the field, nine rebounds). Turner, 21, is a player to watch in this league. 

• Was Oladipo’s offense hitting a slump? Not quite. The Pacers guard entered the game averaging 23.8 points (12th in the NBA) but started out 0 for 3 in the first quarter. Then he snapped back into form and went 4 for 4 in the second quarter.

• Good thing NBA teams have so many extra uniforms for their players. Simmons’ jersey ripped apart in the second quarter (see story). The same has happened to LeBron James, Draymond Green and Tyler Ennis. The Nike uniforms are new for this season. 

• Injury updates: Markelle Fultz (right shoulder soreness, muscle imbalance) was the only player injured for the Sixers. Glenn Robinson III (left ankle surgery rehab) and Edmond Sumner (left knee surgery rehab) were sidelined for the Pacers. Damien Wilkins was out because of personal reasons. T.J. Leaf left the game with a sprained left ankle. 

• Talk about being resourceful. The temperature inside the Wells Fargo Center was colder than usual and Saric worked with what he had. Maybe next time he’ll bring a Snuggie. 

• Alex Poythress signed a two-way contract with the Pacers after competing in summer league for the Sixers. He still keeps in touch with teammates, including Holmes, and the assistant coaches. Poythress wants to soak up as much as he can on the Pacers and take on a utility man-type role. “Put me wherever you need me,” he said. “Bring energy, defend, rebound, hit open shots, all that stuff.” 

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

LOS ANGELES —  From trash talking on the court to expressing himself on social media, Joel Embiid is a player of many (many) words. So if his fellow All-Stars had to describe him in just one, what would it be? 

Draymond Green: "'Funny.' He's hilarious. The stuff he says, he goes on TV talking about (Kevin Durant's) burner account, he's talking how he's a savage. His Instagram locations, pretty funny. He's a good guy." 

Andre Drummond: "I’d probably say 'charismatic,' 'funny,' 'savage.' He don’t care, he just does what he wants to.”

Paul George: “Personality,' in all caps."

(Why all caps?)

“Because he’s a big dude.”

John Wall: "He's just 'himself.' He's very confident."

Anthony Davis: “'Savage.' Cool dude, he lives by his own rules. He’s just enjoying life and having fun.”

Jimmy Butler: "'Remarkable' in the fact that his game on the court is insane. Then the way he's always saying something to somebody on social media is really 'remarkable.'"

Bradley Beal: “'Wild.' He has no filter, he doesn’t care. That’s my boy, but he just has no remorse, doesn’t care."

LaMarcus Aldridge: “'Entertaining,' because he’s always on TV expressing how he feels. So, entertaining.”

New NBA ASG great, but what in the world was before it?

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New NBA ASG great, but what in the world was before it?

This week’s serving of Rob Rants focuses on the dichotomy of the 2018 NBA All-star Game and the show that comes with it. On the court, the game was a highly entertaining, competitive, tightly fought contest that incorporated a new concept that's a winner. The league also attempted something new prior to the game. That idea did not quite work as well. 

All-Star Games 
I generally am not a fan of All-Star Games. I haven’t watched the Pro Bowl in years. Same goes for the NHL All-Star Game. I find the MLB's midsummer classic to be the most watchable of the four. Plus, they have a captive audience as there are no other options that time of year. In recent years, I’ve taken more to the NBA three-point contest and skills competition rather than the dunk contest or the game itself. Full disclosure: I watched the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night for a few reasons. I wanted to see Joel Embiid’s first All-Star Game. I was curious about the new draft format of player selection. And my 16-year-old son who I was watching it with is a die-hard Sixers and NBA fan. So I watched all the way through. What I found were two polar-opposite productions. 

Premise
Along with ESPN’s College Gameday. I find TNT's Inside the NBA to be as good as it gets in terms of pregame shows. Ernie, Charles, Kenny, Shaq and crew were excellent as always. It’s what happened after they signed off that was a sight to be hold. 

Pregame show?
Philadelphia’s own Kevin Hart performed some type of musical/broadway play/comedy/is this really happening? Somehow Rob Riggle, the least funny man in the world, was involved. As were Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah and Ludacris. And there were cheerleaders and wild west folk. There may have been others but at that point, I began slipping into some kind of hypnotic coma. It went on interminably long. It was the kind of thing that, if Hart was not so popular and talented, can kill a career. It was that bad. But I strangely could not pull myself away. It was car crash, rubber-necking kind of bad. 

That mercifully ended and you thought it was game time. But we still had the anthems. First, the Canadian anthem, which was followed by the Star Spangled Banner. Fergie decided that she would turn Francis Scott Key’s composition into a steamy, sultry, lounge act from back in the day. To put it kindly, she missed the mark. Charles Barkley said at halftime that he needed a cigarette after her performance. It wasn’t quite Carl Lewis or Roseanne Barr-level of terrible, but it just capped a half hour-plus of strangeness that anyone who watched was never getting back. All of this just reaffirmed why I don’t generally indulge in these exhibitions. But then something funny happened. 

The game
The NBA smartly changed formats for All-Star selection this year. The league went playground style, having two captains choose their teams. LeBron James and Steph Curry were the two captains in charge of selecting from the voted-in All-Stars. The game, unlike recent years, had a different kind of competitive feel from the jump. Yes, it had the usual array of dunks and incredible passes, which the game should have. But there was defense played and fouls taken. Strategy was employed. To the players and NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s credit, the changes were a home run. The game came down to the last possession with Team Steph having a chance to tie with a three. Team LeBron played great defense and Curry could not get a shot off, giving Team LeBron the 148-145 victory. The game had the best of both worlds — incredible athletes showing off their skills and a level of care and compete not seen in a long time. And Embiid had an excellent All-Star debut with 19 points, eight boards and a great sequence where he nailed a rainbow three-pointer and then swatted Russell Westbrook at the other end of the floor.

Lesson here: tune in at tip-off. And no more Rob Riggle. Ever.