The700Level

How about that T.J. McConnell performance in Boston though?

How about that T.J. McConnell performance in Boston though?

It was the same game that it feels like the Process-era Philadelphia 76ers have blown about a half-dozen separate times to the Boston Celtics: Leading for much of the game, coughing up the lead late and then losing on a last-minute three-pointer. It was still an extremely well-fought game by the Sixers, considering that Boston hit a franchise-record 19 triples, but three wins in a row would've sounded a lot better than two W's and a moral victory. Final score: Celtics 110, 76ers 106. 

But T.J. McConnell, wow. A lot of Sixers played well in this game: Joel had 23 on 6-12 shooting before fouling out, Nerlens was awesome off the bench (13 and 8 with three blocks), Gerald Henderson returned to the lineup after a week off with 18 of the bench. The game ball undoubtedly goes to T.J., though, who racked up an astounding 17 assists in this one, to go with nine points, two steals and just two turnovers. It's obviously a career high, and something only one other Sixer this century has done -- the great Andre Miller, who collected 18 dimes in a 2008 win over Chicago. 

Though he mostly posted unremarkable numbers for the season's opening months when coming off the bench, T.J. has been borderline-electric as a starter for Philly. In four starts this season, he's averaging 10.5 points and 10.5 assists a game, shooting over 50% and losing the ball just over two times a game. The Sixers are also 3-1 in those games -- 6-24 elsewhere -- with that one loss coming by a sliver last night in Boston. (T.J. also had the highest plus-minus for the contest, finishing with a +10 on the night.) 

Of course, it's practically an annual tradition for the Sixers to get a new starting point guard and experience a surge in productivity around the new year -- Ish Smith, anybody? -- and it doesn't often last forever, as the league will learn how to better counter T.J.'s strengths and expose his weaknesses. (Expect a lot of open looks at three in weeks to come, and a lot of frustrating drives and even more frustrating bricks to ensue.) But considering how well the team is currently playing with him at the helm, and how erratic Sergio Rodriguez was as a starter, it's probably right that Timothy John should stay in the first five even when Rodriguez returns from his ankle sprain. He is part of the family, after all.

Sixers pick up first boring win of the season against Jazz

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Sixers pick up first boring win of the season against Jazz

There was a time as Sixers fans when being 16 games into the season meant it legitimately felt like there was no chance the team would ever win another game of basketball. Now, we're beating teams at home by a lot because we're better than them, moving to multiple games over .500, and -- as of last night -- even breaking even with our overall scoring differential. Yawn. 

The Philadelphia 76ers beat the Utah Jazz last night by a score of 107-86. Joel Embiid had something of an off night (15 points on 7-16 shooting), our shooters couldn't quite get it going (4-15 from deep), but we still won by 21. It wasn't quite a blowout, but it definitely wasn't a nail-biter. It wasn't an upset or a moral loss or a validating triumph. It wasn't anything, really, except a win. 

In it's own way, of course, that makes it the most meaningful W of the season for Philly. It has been a very long time -- maybe since the Doug Collins era -- since the Sixers won a game without it being a referendum on either team. The Sixers simply won because they're a better team with more good players -- especially with the Jazz missing a couple key dudes, though we also beat them in Utah a couple weeks ago without Joel Embiid, so whatever. And the Jazz aren't even the worst team in the league, or really even one of them -- they're just a not-totally-terrible team that the Sixers are still decisively superior to. 

Long have I dreamed of wins like this, to have a game where there was nothing to say in the recap except how there's nothing really to say in the recap. Next time the Sixers pick up another W this casual -- and it probably won't take all that long, either -- I won't even be able to write this column again. I'll probably have to try writing in haiku or cryptogram or something to attempt to make the story interesting. 

And that's fine: After four years of historic losing, we'll trade narratives for Ws any time. You keep it real boring, Sixers.

Joel Embiid swatted Donovan Mitchell, drew a tech, and ignited a Philly explosion

Joel Embiid swatted Donovan Mitchell, drew a tech, and ignited a Philly explosion

We didn't even know if Joel Embiid was going to play just hours before tonight's contest as he was listed as a game-time decision with knee soreness.

Play he did. And he treated the Wells Fargo Center crowd to one of the more energetic moments of the evening. 

The Sixers beat the Jazz in South Philly on Monday night, 107-86, to bounce back from that tough loss on Saturday (see observations).

Embiid was a big part of that. He finished with 15 points, 11 boards, three assists and a couple of blocks.

It was one block on Donovan Mitchell in particular that had The Center going bonkers.

Watch:

The block, the stare down, the technical foul signal, the crowd pumping ... Embiid provided a perfect moment.

"It was some good theater and the two embraced afterwards. It was fun to watch," Marc Zumoff said after the game.

Mitchell wrote it off as a rookie mistake.

"Just gotta keep my head," Mitchell said. "It's a learning experience, especially in that situation when we're making a comeback."

Whether they were making a comeback or not is debatable. 

"I shouldn't have done it. I should have just let it go."

Brett Brown was OK with the play.

"I'm always mindful of how do we stay disciplined," Brown said. "Jo understands it's risky if you taunt. I want my guys playing with an edge. I want them to feel some level of swagger and feel good about themselves. That was a big play. It certainly got the crowd involved."

As for his part in the incident, Embiid admitted he may have embellished just a bit. The big guy is not that easy to move.

"I flopped and he got a technical for it," Embiid said. "That's basically how it happened. It's all fun. After the game, we shook hands."