At least we got to game 74 this time before yadda-yadda-ing the rest of the season. It's hard to argue that the Sixers weren't better off losing their last eight contests of the season -- finishing last night with a 114-113 loss to New York -- especially once Robert Covington went down for the season and it became clear that the Kings weren't quite gonna do our tanking for us. But it's still kind of a bummer that it ended that way, that we still haven't evolved past Purposefully Inconsequential Basketball, that we couldn't quite get to 30 wins.
Still, the ephemeral low of having finished the 2016-'17 season as a D-League squad yet again will of course be much shorter than any ensuing elation from getting a little lottery luck, which the Sixers certainly helped their odds of happening with their crappy play the last few weeks. Basically, things worked out the way we hoped: The Sixers lost out, the Lakers somehow won a handful of games Magic couldn't help but squeak out a W last night against Detroit (bless you Marcus Georges-Hunt and your long, illustrious NBA career).
So we passed Orlando in the tanking rankings, while Phoenix passed L.A., leading to about a 48% chance that the Sixers jump into the top three, and about a 53% chance that the Lakers slide out of it. (Of course, of that 48%, about 10% belongs to the Kings, who finished an untied 8th in the lottery standings with a loss and a Mavericks win last night.) We didn't think we'd end up back here, we convinced ourselves we wouldn't care if we did or not, but sure enough, Lottery Night is gonna be A Thing again, even beyond the Process' jersey retirement.
Is this the last time that this is gonna be the last time for all this? All evidence would point to yes, while all history and intuition would point to no. More about all that to come, but for now, let's take the traditional Thank God We Don't Have to Watch This Sixers Team Again This Year victory lap and dream sweet dreams tonight about Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Robert Covington and Markelle Fultz -- sure, let's take Jayson Tatum too while we're at it -- all playing together, 12 healthy legs and feet between them, with only the overwhelming brightness of the future as a distraction.
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.
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.