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.
Being a sports fan can bring out the cynics in all of us. Writing about sports on the Internet often desensitizes many of us to what sports can actually mean to people. But there’s no denying the emotion this story about young Lukas Kusters made me feel.
It’s a story by ESPN about a young kid from Delaware, his passion for football, his love of the Philadelphia Eagles and Carson Wentz, his battle with cancer, and what his bond with a certain quarterback meant to both of them.
Lukas was known as “The Dutch Destroyer” because of his wildly impressive performance on the football field. He was diagnosed with cancer in April of 2016 at 8 years old and went on the fight of his life against it.
Lukas turned to his Eagles fandom and their young quarterback as a source of inspiration.
“We spent a lot of time talking about [Wentz] while we were in the hospital,” Lukas’ mother said. “And the idea of ‘the hope of Carson’ and what it meant for the Eagles was just another piece of inspiration for Lukas in his continued drive to get back on the field himself.”
Lukas received a special video message in his hospital bed from Wentz. It is impossible not to get emotional watching what it meant to Lukas.
The Make-a-Wish Foundation got involved and asked Lukas if there was anything he most wanted to do, and the youngster’s response was that he simply wanted to thank Carson.
Lukas got the opportunity to spend the day at the Eagles’ facility with Carson and he got to do just that, giving Wentz one of his Dutch Destroyer bracelets in the process.
Lukas lost his battle with cancer and was buried in his Wentz jersey. But if you’ve noticed Wentz’s wrist this season, you’ll see that Dutch Destroyer bracelet.
“It’s so much deeper than football,” Wentz said. “It’s so much more than just a game.”
Well, what a fun trip down memory lane that was. Just as they have seemingly spent much of the past four years doing, the Philadelphia 76ers traveled to Toronto last night on the second night of a back-to-back -- without Joel Embiid, natch -- and got minced. The Sixers got outpaced 36-19 in the first quarter and never recovered, eventually falling by a score of 128-94.
It was another game where the things our rookies were good at, they were really good at, but the other stuff killed us. Ben Simmons ended with an impressive 18-10-8 -- even hitting a couple quasi-jumpers in the process -- but the way that the Raptors were able to shrink the floor against him and his ultra-limited range more or less strangled our half-court offense. The Sixers were -20 with him on the floor, and the cramped spacing partly led to a down night for our normally reliable shooters. (Robert Covington and J.J. Redick -- the former plagued by foul trouble -- couldn't even get their shots off, going a combined 1-3 from deep.)
And Markelle Fultz's presence only exacerbated things, as he kept refusing to shoot from the perimeter, driving no matter how open he was. He made some nice plays and got to the line eight times, but his increasingly miserable FT form -- he shot the last one seemingly one-handed, with his other arm blocking his eyes -- shows why that's about all he's capable of at the moment. As suggested by Spike Eskin on a recent Rights to Ricky Sanchez pod, shutting him down until he can relearn how to shoot might be the move for our No. 1 overall pick at this point. He's not helping himself or the team playing like this at the moment.
Of course, the biggest reason for the drubbing was the lack of Embiid. The team has no one to really hold down the middle without him at the moment -- Amir Johnson is our most reliable backup but he's something of a black hole on offense at the moment, and Jahlil Okafor (who got his first game action of the season) is still brutal when it comes to defensive decision-making. The team actually might look best at the moment sans Embiid with Simmons at the five, though that's not sustainable for long periods, especially when DeMar DeRozan is carving up our defense for 30 points on 8-12 (!!) shooting.
Terrible throwback performance by the Sixers, and given that it's their third loss in a row to start the season, it may lead to a lot of understandable Same Old Sixers chatter. But don't forget how good that opening-night performance was against the Wizards, how much of the game against Boston we were leading for, and how tough a three-game stretch to start the season this was in general. I thought we'd go 0-3 and we went 0-3 -- next up is the Pistons on Monday, and in the couple weeks that follow, we play the Mavs, Hawks and Pacers. We wont' be winless for long -- though the sooner we can put one in the W column and avoid this team getting stuck in a peak-Process vortex, the better.