Dario Saric the best thing about Sixers' December

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Dario Saric the best thing about Sixers' December

Though it ended on a relative high note — a 3-2 road trip, capped with a well-earned 123-110 win last night vs. the Suns — December was not an overly kind month for the Sixers. 

The team went 5-10 for the month, without winning consecutive games until these last two Ws at month's end, sinking them out of the playoff picture in the standings and raising a number of serious questions about the team's current trajectory. Ben Simmons has struggled, Robert Covington has gone cold, and Joel Embiid, while brilliant (26-10-4 for the month), only played in 10 of the 15 games and may end up missing more time with a sprained hand suffered in the fourth quarter in Phoenix.
However, one unqualified positive did come from the Sixers' cruelest month of the season: the breakout of Dario Saric. It's easy to forget now, but Dario was colder than Times Square at the ball drop to start the season, not even scoring in double figures until his sixth game. Part of that was because Brett Brown had him coming off the bench to start the season, but it was also because his shot looked flat, his chemistry with his new teammates seemed lacking and he just generally felt disconnected from the rest of the team. 

Ancient history now, because The Homie has been scorching of late. In the 12 contests since he missed the Lakers game early in the month with an eye laceration, Dario's averaged an 18-8-4 on 48 percent shooting and 40 percent from three-point land. Those are awesome numbers from a guy who isn't even supposed to be one of the main cogs, and the last one is probably the most important — the shooting and spacing he's provided as a stretch four is truly invaluable to a team like the Sixers, especially in lineups with both Embiid and Simmons. You saw his value in the Lakers game he missed (and the Sixers lost) — without him, there's no forward to play alongside Embiid that doesn't make JoJo's life more difficult. 

And his best numbers have come at month's end. He largely no-showed the Christmas game against New York — just 4 of 15 from the field, and a nearly back-breaking 0-6 from three — but has gone an absurd 12-18 from deep in the three games since, scoring over 20 in each, the longest such streak of his career. He's shooting better from everywhere on the floor than last year (including the free-throw line, where he hasn't missed in five games), he's turning the ball over less frequently, and as Derek Bodner points out, he's especially excelling alongside Joel, after struggling on court with him at season's start. 

You hope he keeps up this efficiency as the Sixers (hopefully) hit more of a stride in the new year, even once Markelle Fultz (hopefully) slots back into the rotation at some point. The Sixers don't need Dario to be a Big Three-type guy, but if he can keep doing what he does and provide wins around the margins of games, that's a huge asset for when the Sixers (HOPEFULLY) are ready to emerge as true contenders. 

Kevin Hart finally gets his Lombardi Trophy

NBC Sports Philadelphia

Kevin Hart finally gets his Lombardi Trophy

Kevin Hart finally has his Lombardi Trophy.

Hart, a comedian and a native of Philadelphia, had a few too many adult beverages during Super Bowl LII and attempted to get to the stage for the presentation of the trophy. He was unsurprisingly denied.

But Hart refused to accept "no" for an answer.

The lesson here is, if you're big enough of a celebrity to get on the field after your hometown team wins the Super Bowl, you probably have enough coin to just buy your own trophy instead of trying to drunkenly crash the trophy presentation.

On his birthday, Embiid delivers present to fans

On his birthday, Embiid delivers present to fans

Most Sixers fans probably could've predicted the 2-0 result of the Sixers' back-to-back swing against the Knicks and the Nets, but the expenditure of energy it'd take to get there was hard to see coming. One night after needing a fourth-quarter comeback to escape from New York, the Sixers went even further down to the wire against Brooklyn at home, needing a huge final-minute three from Robert Covington and some savvy playing of the foul game from T.J. McConnell to squeak out the 120-116 win.

Both one of the biggest reasons the Nets were able to hang around and one of the biggest reasons the Sixers won anyway was the birthday boy himself, Joel Embiid. JoJo turned 24 yesterday, and he matched that with a 24-point performance -- though he needed 23 shots to get there, only hitting a Kobe-like six of them. But The Process was eminently trustworthy elsewhere in the box score: a career-high 19 boards, four assists (with only one turnover), and most importantly, an immaculate 11-11 from the foul line, where he'd been struggling recently (just 63% from the stripe this month previously). It was about as dominant a performance as our big guy could submit while being an absolute mess from the field.

And he was matched along the way by Ben Simmons. The Fresh Prince didn't notch his third consecutive triple-double, sadly, but he came damn close with his 21-8-12 line -- to go with three big steals and just two turnovers -- his highest-scoring night since he hung 32 on the Bulls in February. We've said it before, but having a superstar to carry your team when they're struggling is the ultimate luxury; having two feels downright immodest. (Simmons since All Stars were announced in late January, btw: 16-8-9 on 58% shooting and under three turnovers, with four triple-doubles and double-digit scoring in 25 out of 25 games.)

So the Sixers move to 38-30, two games up on Milwaukee in the seventh seed, half a game behind Washington at five, a full game behind Cleveland at four, and 1.5 behind Indiana at three. While the Sixers have struggled some against top-level teams in the past month -- going 1-5 in their last six games against playoff-bound opponents -- they've kept pace in the East by taking care of business against the sub-.500 teams, winning their last eight against losing squads, dating back to them taking an L against these Nets in Brooklyn at the end of January. Now they get a couple hard-earned days off before two more home games against lottery-bound squads in Charlotte and Memphis. Trust -- and celebrate -- The Process.