Wow, was that first half against the Golden State Warriors fun Saturday night or what? Going into the break up 22, with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons dominating, Robert Covington and JJ Redick hitting from everywhere and the Warriors playing at least marginally shook, looking like a team woefully underprepared for a fully weaponized Sixers squad. It was absolutely stunning seeing it all come together, since as good as the Sixers had been through 14 games so far this year, they'd still never played a full game this season with both their shooters hitting and their stars locked in.
And they still haven't. As second quarter gave way to third, can't say for certain if the Warriors' switch was flipped, but something definitely was. All of a sudden, the paint closed off for Embiid and Simmons, Covington started clanking and trying to defend the Warriors was as fruitless as trying to save a soup with a hole torn in the takeaway carton. Philly's 22-point lead turned into a 10-point deficit, and it wasn't coming back. Final score: 124-116, Warriors.
Once this one really got outta control — in a bad way — you kinda just had to laugh about it. The Sixers' first-half steamrolling was head-smackingly unsustainable, but to see everything good about their performance dissolve so fully and so quickly, there was nothing really to say: You just had to recall fondly how hilariously beautiful those first 24 minutes were, and know that someday we'll get a performance like that from the Liberty Ballers that extends all 48. Maybe even against these Warriors, who probably weren't gonna lose to both the present and the future of the Eastern Conference in back-to-back outings.
As much fun as it would've been for the Sixers to jump their timeline about two seasons in one night, they're not there yet. Half their bench is out, for one thing, including that guy Markelle Fultz who should still be an enormous difference-maker for Brett Brown's crew if he ever gets his head (and his shoulders) straight. And though Simmons and Embiid already both show flashes of "Oh My God They've Figured It Out" and "We're All Doomed" with absurd frequency, to expect them to have totally solved the NBA with 59 games of Association experience between them is not terribly realistic. The team's turned a corner this season, no doubt, but there's still a lot of corners left in that treehouse for them to investigate.
The good news? The Sixers are staying at home for a while now — after playing 10 of their first 14 on the road, they're now in the midst of eight of nine in South Philly — with challenging, but mostly winnable games coming up, including Monday night against the Utah Jazz. The Sixers are not ready to run the rest of the league off the court just yet, but they're ready to establish themselves as one of the decisively good teams, and hopefully, their home building as one of the league's obviously tough arenas. For a team where crisis forever lurks just below the surface, that would certainly be enough Process-to-Progress for one season.