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

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

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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.” 

Give and Go: What should Sixers be thankful for the most?

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Give and Go: What should Sixers be thankful for the most?

Each week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Marshall Harris, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporter Paul Hudrick and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporter Matt Haughton.

In this edition, we examine what the Sixers should be thankful for the most on this Thanksgiving.

Harris
At first glance, you take a look at Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and remember that they combined for 31 games last season and the impulse is to say health. However, we can’t ignore the injuries that have befallen the team outside of those two engines. The Sixers have been hurting without the likes of Markelle Fultz, Jerryd Bayless, Nik Stauskas and Justin Anderson at their full disposal of late. So health hasn’t been their thing, really.
 
What the Sixers should be thankful for is that despite being shorthanded, they made it through 17 games of the season with a winning record. That’s in spite of 10 of those games being on the road and two games each against Golden State and Houston already in the books. 

Since a 1-4 start, the Sixers have lost just three times in their last 12 games, and two of those losses were to arguably one of the greatest teams in history in the Warriors. Suddenly everyone is reaching for their abacus or calculator, and they should be. Who had the Sixers with a winning record at Thanksgiving?
 
Here’s the thing, two weeks ago Jim Lynam told me the Sixers would be a top four seed in the East. I wasn’t ready to embrace that idea. I’m ready to admit my 39-win prediction may not be up to the task. Perhaps we all need to recognize that the Sixers, youth and all, are up to the challenge of not just squeaking into the playoffs. At their current rate of growth, they look like a team that could get the 45 wins they’re already on pace to achieve and maybe even more.

Hudrick
Health is the obvious thing to be most thankful for, but I'll take it a step further. The Sixers should be thankful that the best is yet to come.

Any other season during The Process, Markelle Fultz's situation — being the No. 1 overall pick that the team traded up to acquire that suffered a weird injury the team appeared to mishandle — would be considered a catastrophe. To say Fultz has become an afterthought would be a stretch, but his situation has certainly taken a backseat to Embiid, Simmons and the Sixers' success.

We won't know the full extent of Fultz's impact and role for quite some time. But the thought of Embiid, Simmons and Fultz on the court together should still tantalize Sixers fans. I'm still dying to see what Fultz can do in pick-and-roll situations with Embiid and even Simmons.

Am I worried about the jumper? Yeah, a little. But this is a guy who took five threes a night in college and shot 41 percent from distance. He then went on to shot 38 percent on five treys a contest during three summer league games. I still believe the shot is there. He just needs to get his confidence back and his shoulder healthy.

And don't listen to the doubters. Markelle Fultz is an excellent basketball player and was the top pick in the draft for a reason. He's not Anthony Bennett or Andrea Bargnani. This kid can play.

And the Sixers should be thankful when looking at his future.

Haughton
While Embiid already shared what he’s thankful for on this holiday, the Sixers can only look back on how they landed the budding big man and smile.

Let’s rewind a bit. Embiid was well on his way to being the No. 1 overall pick in 2014 as he averaged 11.2 points on an insane 62.6 percent shooting, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game during his lone season at Kansas. That was until he suffered a stress fracture in his back late in the season that sidelined him for the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments.

Even after the back injury, Embiid appeared on his way to locking up the top spot in the draft … until the next setback. This time it was a broken foot suffered just before the draft that cast serious doubt about his long-term health.

As Sixers fans know all too well, that troublesome foot caused Embiid to miss his first two NBA seasons. However, what they’ve witnessed since has been nothing short of spectacular. In just 46 career games, Embiid has averaged 21.0 points (48.2 percent shooting), 8.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.3 blocks. His superstar ability has captured the hearts of the team’s faithful, and his huge social media presence has only made them love him even more.

As for the two players taken before Embiid, their careers don’t exactly appear to be trending in the same direction. No. 1 overall selection and Embiid’s Kansas teammate, Andrew Wiggins, has shown flashes of brilliance. However, his production with the revamped Minnesota Timberwolves is down this season after signing a massive extension of his own, and questions remain about whether he can go from being a very good player to great. As for No. 2 pick Jabari Parker, he’s been a stud on the court for the Milwaukee Bucks but is recovering from a second left ACL tear since 2014.

All in all, Embiid is the prize of the crop and fell into the Sixers’ laps. So this Thanksgiving the Sixers should take a moment to reminisce about the process that brought them “The Process.”

Joel Embiid has plenty of reasons to be thankful

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Joel Embiid has plenty of reasons to be thankful

Joel Embiid is very appreciative. He is healthy, signed a mega-contract and has become the face of a franchise on the rise. 

The night before Thanksgiving, following a 20-point win over the Trail Blazers, Embiid reflected on why he is thankful.

“I’m thankful for my family,” Embiid, who grew up in Cameroon, said. “I live by myself, they don’t live here. But my mom is actually here.”

Embiid’s mother took in Wednesday’s action from courtside at the Wells Fargo Center and was all smiles as her son put up 28 points (11 for 19 shooting), 12 rebounds and two blocks in the 101-81 victory (see game recap).

Embiid also recognized the Sixers’ faithful, who have pulled for him during injury after injury and never wavered from their trust in the process.

“I’m thankful for the city of Philadelphia,” Embiid said. “This has become my home and I hope to be here for the rest of my career. I’m just thankful for the fans and just everybody around me, people that have been supporting me.” 

Embiid even gave a shoutout to the media, which doesn’t always happen, especially after a team struggled for so long.

“You guys hype me up so much,” he said. “So thank you.”

And last but not least, the player with 1.02 million followers on Twitter and another 1.4 million on Instagram, Embiid is grateful for every like and retweet. 

“I’m thankful for social media,” he said. 

#Fitting. #Thankful. #HappyThanksgiving